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January 27, 2016

Philly official wants to use drones for emergency services

Butkovitz: Devices can be employed for fires, snow plowing and more

Drones Emergency
02252015_drones_AP.jpg Bertrand Combaldieu, File/AP

A drone.

Philadelphia City Controller Alan Butkovitz wants to employ drones to aid in a number of city services, and he's provided a video to make his case.

His office said in a release Wednesday that the remotely controlled flying devices could help "improve public safety and enhance numerous government services."

The drones would be used to help workers do their jobs, specifically in surveying large areas in a small amount of time. Butkovitz said they could be used for:

• Inspect dangerous buildings -- drones can do a visual inspection of 56 homes on a block in 30 seconds, Butkovitz claims

• Help survey open routes and traffic information during emergencies, such as fires

• After snowstorms like the one that recently slammed Philly, help find out more quickly which streets haven't been plowed

• Survey track conditions for SEPTA

Obviously, the drone operators would be properly trained and follow FAA regulations, Butkovitz said.

To show drones' effectiveness for building inspections, the controller's office released a video taken from a device that shows wide and close-up shots from high above several Philly neighborhoods. You can watch that video below:

Other U.S. cities, like Somerville, Massachusetts, have used drones to their advantage, and Butkovitz wants Philly to follow suit.

“The city needs to explore how the latest advancements in technology can improve government functions that can benefit all Philadelphians," he said.