COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSPD) -- Ohio could be the first state in the nation to use drones to monitor prisons.
The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections calls the devices "unmanned aerial vehicles" and is considering three types of devices: a tethered balloon, a helicopter, and fixed-wing vehicle.
"We would be looking at, at least tentatively, both a daytime electronic optics - like a high definition camera with pan, tilt, zoom capability and then night-time infrared capability," said Operations Manager Ed Voorhies.
The program would be tested at the Lebanon Correctional Institution and Warren Correctional Institution in southwest Ohio.
"At the end of that period we would then be making determinations about the costs, the benefits, and whether or not to proceed with one or more of the types of vehicles," he said.
Voorhies is quick to point out that they are not considering the devices as replacement for prison guards.
"We are in no way looking at this as an opportunity to layoff staff and replace them with an unmanned aerial vehicle."
Voorhies sees the devices being especially helpful in preventing and investigating contraband being dropped off at the prisons. He says that in some cases they would be able to spot and track someone dropping something off on prison grounds or tossing something over a fence. The video from the devices would be monitored in the prisons master control center.
Another part of the proposal would be a statewide privacy standard to shield those who live near prisons from being spied on.
The program is in the public comment phase right now. You can weigh in e-mailing DRC.UAS@odrc.state.oh.us or calling (513) 932-1211 ext. 2121.