WEST HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The West Hartford Police Department is expanding its drone program, doubling the number of officers that are now pilots.

“We have been able to expand this program from two pilots to four pilots to eight pilots,” Sgt. Ross Friedman said. “We now have three different drones with enhanced IR capabilities. It has been a real force multiplier for us in a number of different types of calls.”

The West Hartford Police Department called to launch at least once a week, and it’s not just for missing persons.

“We have been out for crime scenes, fatal accident reconstruction, we come out for crimes in progress, and if we have a party outstanding we might be looking for.”

The drone unit shows us the infrared (IR) component of the drone. You see the forest with the naked eye, but once in IR mode, it lets officers search at night in dense woods almost like it was daytime, clearly seeing people moving about.

“Even in the middle of the night using IR technology, we are able to locate them,” Friedman said. “It looks almost like it’s high definition, nighttime almost better than you can see with the regular eye. It’s pretty impressive.”

The drones are carried by patrol officers, so when the call comes in, the drone responds with the officers, and there’s no delay in launch.

“Having the drone in my cruiser with me in any kind of missing persons call or hot calls, where we need the drone immediately, I can go right to the scene,” Officer Kelly Shimo said. “I don’t have to go back to the police department and pick any gear up or anything like that.”

Shimo is one of the newest drone pilots but she already has years of experience working with them.

“Before becoming a police officer, I was in the Marine Corps for five years, and I did something similar where I worked with drone pilots,” Shimo said. “I didn’t fly them, but we coordinated with them, so I talked to them over the radio, granted them airspace, and granted their missions.”

As they add more pilots, the department is also adding drones. They started with one and now they’re up to three, continuing to move this program forward as it becomes more successful.