RCMP Drone Trials in Lac La Biche County

The following information has been provided by the RCMP. This information is being hosted on Lac La Biche County's website for the public's convenience, and any questions or queries regarding these trials should be directed to the RCMP at RCMP.ALBERTA.GRC@rcmp-grc.gc.ca.

Frequently Asked Questions

When are the trials? 

The trial period for Lac La Biche is scheduled for May 3 to May 12, 2024, with training on April 29 and 30. Further trials will take place throughout May and June 2024.

What exactly are the Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) trials about? What are the RCMP testing?  

The Alberta RCMP, in consultation with RCMP National RPAS, are testing if drones can be used to support public safety in response to active calls for service, to provide situational awareness for on-the-ground officers responding to the call. This method of use is similar to how helicopters or fixed wing aircraft have been traditionally used in larger urban centres. 

In May and June of this year, the RCMP is conducting three different trials in different communities, to test different RPAS technologies and service delivery models. The first community will be Lac La Biche. The other two communities will be identified in the not too distant future. 

In the Lac La Biche trial, the RPAS will launch from the rooftop of the Lac La Biche Protective Services Building, but it will be flown remotely by RCMP pilots in the Lac La Biche RCMP Detachment. All RPAS flights conducted during the course of the trial will be carried out in accordance with the Aeronautics Act and Canadian Aviation Regulations. 

How long has the RCMP been using Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS)? 

The RCMP has been using RPAS (drone technology) for about 10 years, historically with our specialized support sections, such as our Emergency Response Team and our Collision Reconstruction Unit. In more recent years, the RCMP has deployed RPAS from the trunks of some patrol cars. For most communities, air support for public safety endeavors in the form of helicopter or fixed wing programs has been too costly or not readily available. RPAS is a fraction of the cost and now provides the opportunity for communities to realize enhanced police and public safety benefits.

Why is the RCMP performing these trials?

Public reviews, including reviews of the Moncton tragedy in 2014 and the Nova Scotia tragedy in 2020, where police and citizens were killed in active shooter incidents, resulted in recommendations for the RCMP to ensure better air support is available for front line operations. The RCMP seeks to learn from these tragedies, and we want to work with our communities for this purpose.

Evolving RPAS technology allows RCMP officers to approach investigations, unfolding critical incidents, and public safety concerns in a more modern, innovative, and efficient way. Calls for services can be responded to quicker, crime scenes can be seen from a bird's eye view, and suspects can be located with lower risk to them, the public, and our officers.

Where will the drones be operating in Lac La Biche?

The site of the trial may be subject to change, depending on continued site surveys and risk assessments. The following map will provide a rough indication of the area for the trial, indicating the possibility of a 2 nautical mile (3.7 kms) radius and 4 nautical miles (7.4 kms) radius, from the Protective Services Building. Range depends on technology and the ability to have visual observers in place, which will be part of the trial.

What does the Alberta RCMP seek to achieve with these trials? 

The Alberta RCMP is looking to learn more about RPAS, to test different technologies and service delivery models, and to determine whether this technology can be used to better serve our communities and keep them safe.

How will the drones be used during the trials?

During the trial period, RPAS will be deployed from the rooftop of the Protective Services Building for various calls for service. The RPAS will be controlled by an RPAS certified RCMP pilot situated in the Lac La Biche RCMP Detachment. 

What types of calls will the RPAS be responding to?

The RPAS will be used to respond to active calls for service, including crimes in progress, flights from police, suspicious persons, missing persons, assisting EMS/Fire, or even to support natural disaster response.

Why utilize air support for police operations?

The use of RPAS can allow RCMP officers to approach investigations, unfolding critical incidents, and public safety concerns in a more modern, innovative, and efficient way. Calls for services can be responded to quicker, crime scenes can be seen from a bird's eye view, and suspects can be located with lower risk to them, the public, and our officers.

Effective and efficient: RPAS can cover a large area in a short amount of time when conducting a search and rescue mission for a missing person. Time is of the essence when dealing with harsh weather conditions and/or vulnerable missing people.

Lower risk of danger for both officers responding to a call and nearby community members: RPAS can increase accuracy when locating and monitoring a suspect’s location and determining if they are armed. This allows for the Alberta RCMP to respond to unfolding incidents with an appropriate number of officers and specialized tools if necessary. By gathering timely and accurate information, officers can also clear areas of a community if there is a safety risk.

How are the RCMP ensuring public privacy?

The Alberta RCMP is committed to safeguarding the privacy of individuals. The RCMP’s use of RPAS includes training, policies, and procedures to ensure appropriate use. For example, RPAS may be used to help locate a missing child or a fleeing armed robbery suspect, but it would not be used for police physical evidence searches on private property without a search warrant or some other lawful authority. This trial also includes community participation and oversight.

What safety precautions are being taken?

The RCMP’s use of RPAS will be carried out in accordance with applicable laws and regulations, such as the Aeronautics Act and Canadian Aviation Regulations and all RCMP policy. Only trained and certified RPAS pilots will employ RPAS to assist RCMP officers during calls for service.

The RCMP only utilizes RPAS technology that has been approved by Transport Canada and meets their RPAS Safety Assurance.

Are the RPAS weaponized?

No, the RCMP RPAS are solely an observational platform. RPAS payloads are adaptable, depending on the type of technology in use. Typically, RPAS will be equipped with an optical camera and thermal capability, but some RPAS can also be equipped with loud speakers, emergency red and blue lights, or even sky hooks to carry emergency equipment, like a cell phone or life jacket. 

How can I get more information? 

If you have any questions, please contact the RCMP at: RCMP.ALBERTA.GRC@rcmp-grc.gc.ca.