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911 drones considered in Greensboro

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- There could soon be a time when the first sign of help, after you call 911 in Greensboro, is the sight of an aircraft in the sky.

A company called Olaeris is hoping to launch a new emergency response service that allows firefighters and police officers to get a look at the scene of an emergency before the first person is able to arrive.

Company leaders presented the idea to the Greensboro city council Tuesday during a work session. The meeting was simply informational.

Olaeris said it would be able to build, maintain and service 12 to 15 aircraft across the city that would be able to respond to emergencies in 90 seconds. The planes would be about 8 feet wide and be piloted by 911 operators in Greensboro.

“It would be able to provide some real visual presence and understanding of what was going on with an emergency scene more quickly than we can actually dispatch people to be at the location,” said Greensboro City Manager Jim Westmoreland.

The city was chosen by the company to be one of three cities to launch the program in 2017 pending approval by the FAA. The company said the cost of the program would be $96,000 per month totaling $5.7 million dollars over five years.

Olaeris leaders said the startup could come with great economic rewards.

“For Greensboro what we recognize is a chance to manufacture but more importantly to provide sales, marketing, support, training and personnel,” said Ted Lindsley, CEO and founder of Olaeris.

City councilmembers seemed intrigued by the idea but want more answers about the safety of the aircraft, privacy concerns and the economic impact of helping the company grow from the Gate City.

Police were also excited by the idea of having eyes on the scene before an officer arrives but said research will have to be done to determine if the move is cost effective. Elected leaders also wondered if there would be enough of a cost-savings from the program to justify the price of the 911 drone system.

The city council will meet with the company again to get their answers addressed and see if there is interest in moving forward with the project.