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#13DroneChat: You asked, we answered | News

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#13DroneChat: You asked, we answered

Macon-Bibb County is now one step closer to deploying drones during emergencies and disasters, after a five-member committee took the first vote to do so Tuesday.

The robots, called AEVA, are 50 pounds each and bigger than a king-size mattress.

That's raised some concerns about the scope of drone use in Macon-Bibb County, with many viewers reaching out to us on social media with questions: what exactly those robots will do, how the cost is justified and whether they'll affect your privacy.

So, we got to work to answer your questions.

One viewer asked, "How on earth is a drone going to do anything but delay response time and tip off the perpetrators for the real cops when a crime is in progress?"

A five-member Macon-Bibb committee unanimously approved a $5.7 million...

Macon-Bibb Fire Chief Marvin Riggins says a drone can deploy faster than people can to quickly survey an emergency or disaster, but he says that will not eliminate a responder's role.

He says a team of firefighters will still dispatch, but the drones can give them a firsthand look of what to expect when they arrive.

"We know this is what our charge is, our mission is to serve and protect and we're going to do that. We've always done that in a very timely and efficient manner and I expect no different from that," Riggins said.

Sheriff David Davis echoed that, saying, "Until we can create robots or drones that can apprehend suspects and put out fires, it's still going to be a human endeavor."

Another viewer asked, "Why not use that $5.7 million to put more cops and EMS on the streets? Seems like drones will be useless."

Davis says deciding what to fund will always be a challenge. While he says he wants to hire more deputies, he also says he wants to explore the cost-benefit to new technology that can help save lives or better protect the community.

"As technology evolves and comes online for us to use and look at it, we'd be foolish to not consider doing it," Davis said. "There was a time when we were looking at buying police cars and helicopters and things like that, and people said, 'Aw man, you could buy 20 horses for what you could buy one car for.'"

But perhaps one of the biggest concerns is privacy.

Macon-Bibb County officials are considering using drones for emergency...

One woman Tweeted, "Can we say big brother is watching you?"

Many worry the drones will be used for surveillance.

But officials say the drones will dispatch when E-911 calls come in and not for other purposes.

"It's not going to be a situation where any particular deputy or firefighter can check one out and go fly it around the neighborhood. It's a little bit more complex than that and it's going to be a little more structured," Davis said.

You can join the conversation and Tweet us your questions using #13DroneChat or by commenting on Facebook.

The full nine-member commission is scheduled to vote on that proposed multi-million dollar contract at its meeting Tuesday.

Follow 13WMAZ's Anita Oh on Facebook at Anita Oh WMAZ and on Twitter @anita_oh.


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