Clemmons receives update on drone program

Published 10:31 am Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Fire department, public works could help in reducing costs

The Clemmons Village Council met for the first time in the new year Monday night and received some new information about the Drone as First Responder pilot program through the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office.
It went “live” in Clemmons in the fall and is the first of its kind in the state and one of only 11 programs with the applicable Federal Aviation Administration waivers nationwide. The program is designed to provide deputies with additional support for daily operations utilizing unmanned aircraft systems — commonly known as drones.
Mayor Pro Tem Michelle Barson provided an update from a meeting with county officials last month, saying “we talked a little bit about adopting the program and what that would look like, and they’re working on numbers and things like that for us.”
Barson said in looking at the cost, they discussed the fire department already having drones and folks that have been trained, and they brought up public works personnel being trained on drone use as well as having some civilian pilots.
“We talked a lot about, I want to say, like interdepartmental, although we’re not because the fire department does not report to us, and our officers are part of Forsyth County, but that there could be some synergy there,” Barson said. “And to have folks working the drone from the sheriff’s office, from the fire department and from public works would be a great way to lower the cost because it would lower the manpower of just officers.
“The fire department already has somebody working a drone shift, then we plug into that and then we have our civilian folks that are already salaried by us, and there’s a lot to look at and work out there obviously, but I thought something that was really exciting was having that continuous communication among those three entities that don’t always get to interact. There’s a lot of potential there. It might make it more affordable for us if that’s the direction that we go.”
The council also received a report on the “Clemmons DFR Successes” for the pilot program in October (64 drone flights) and November (56 drone flights).
Council member Bradley Taylor noted all the successes in the first two months of data being tracked, and said that the officer on duty at the meeting is a drone pilot.
Deputy Joey Culler said that the drone flies at 30 mph and can get there quicker than an officer on the road that has to navigate traffic and stoplights.
“It’s an awesome tool, and I’ve operated it from where it stays here in Clemmons, I’ve operated it from the sheriff’s office, and I actually have one in my vehicle,” he said. “So when you have a situation where you have a deputy car get there rather quickly but when you’re moving at 30 mph and you can cover some woods there might be something out there that might be harmful to the deputies on the ground they may not see that you can relay back to them.

“From a deputy standpoint, when you’re out on the side of the road at a traffic stop not knowing what’s in front of you, it’s nice to know that there’s a drone that’s watching you if you get into a circumstance they radio for help for you.”
Council member Mike Combest, who also attended last month’s meeting with Barson, said of the report: “Sixteen percent of the drone deployments resulted in a deputy in a car not having to go there. So those folks are available for other things. That is powerful, especially as we grow. A 16 percent increase in your deputy capability on the ground is awesome.”
Council member Mary Cameron said that this program is truly a first responder.
“The thing that struck me when I read all of these reports is the very first line every time said the drone arrived first or the drone arrived before…” Cameron said. “I see that as being a real timesaver. I don’t see any negatives.”
Also in Monday night’s meeting, Doug Moore, the new planner who started his position in December, was introduced.
“He brings over 30 years of planning and development experience and we’re excited to have him,” said Village Manager Mike Gunnell. “He has already jumped in and started on some of our United Development Ordinance (UDO) requirements.”
In addition, Al Benshoff was introduced as the village’s new attorney. Benshoff, who is with The Brough Law Firm, has been a full-time municipal attorney for 24 years and previously served as a city planner for 15 years.
In other highlights from Monday night’s meeting, the council:
• Approved a preliminary major subdivision for Tanglewood Trace Subdivision by Doylestown Properties LLC located on 6.06 acres zoned RS-9 to include 10 lots at 4200 Clinard Road on a site plan map located in the Village of Clemmons Planning Department and on the Village of Clemmons website.
Moore, the new planner, said that the planning board gave unanimous approval for the project in its previous meeting but added there was a condition attached because the village had not received information back from the U.S. Postal Service on whether a mail kiosk will be required.
“For new developments, they do want a mail kiosk, but it’s very likely since this is a continuation of these streets with homes that don’t have one that they will allow for mailboxes to be there,” Moore said.
Gunnell pointed out that four of the lots, which will require driveway cuts, will be on Clinard Road with the rest going through Asbury Place.
• Accepted an audit report from Gibson & Company PA for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2022, with Craig Hopkins commenting “nothing but good things to say about the village this year” and the work done by Ann Stroud, finance officer.
• Received a quarterly stormwater report from Emily Harrison, stormwater technician, Including the completion of a major Capital Improvements Project at Springside Drive (North) and 23 minor CIP projects — including culvert replacements at Puritan Lane and North Lakeshore.
Harrison also mentioned partnering with Blue Stream Environmental to help reestablish wet pond embankment and vegetative shelf for the Library Wet Pond. Village staff spread out new top soil around the site to help with plant/grass stabilization within the wet pond.