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OLYMPIA — The Washington State Patrol now has more than 100 qualified operators able to pilot a fleet of 111 unmanned aerial vehicles for vehicle crash investigations.

Northwest Public Broadcasting reports the use of the drones is restricted to gaining an overhead view of serious crash scenes, and not for other surveillance. But the fleet could be the largest owned by a public agency anywhere in the country. 

The drones, manufactured by DJI, are used to photograph, videorecord and map accident scenes — something troopers on the ground have long had to do with cameras and special survey equipment. WSP Detective Sergeant Clint Thomas tells NWPB's Tom Banse using drones can greatly reduce the time needed to map a crash site.

Washington has no overarching state law or policy on government use of drones, and the State Patrol says it would require specific approval from Chief John Batiste to use the vehicles for any purpose beyond crash mapping.

Jefferson Robbins: 679-7013

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