The Myrtle Beach police are about to add another weapon to their arsenal in the department’s war on drugs.
The department received approval Tuesday from the Myrtle Beach City Council to purchase a gyrocopter—essentially a two-man aircraft that’s a cross between a helicopter and an airplane.
Myrtle Beach police Chief Warren Gall said the small aircraft will increase the department’s surveillance capabilities, especially when it comes to battling the growing drug epidemic in the city.
“Most of the crimes we have in the city can be related back to drugs,” Gall said. “This will give us another way to help our officers on drug raids or locating the criminals.”
In addition to drug enforcement, Gall said the police intend to make good use of the gyrocopter for other purposes such as dealing with other criminals, during huge events in the city, surveying the aftermath of natural disasters or looking for missing swimmers in the ocean.
For the latter, he said sometimes it takes up to an hour or more to get Coast Guard aircraft to the area to look for missing swimmers.
“It’s extremely vital to find those folks as soon as possible, especially for their families,” Gall added.
The cost of the gyrocopter will be roughly $207,000. This includes the purchase of the aircraft and installing the latest in technology, which Gall said is the most valuable part of the acquisition.
The aircraft will be equipped with the latest in camera and video equipment including thermal imaging and also with spotlights and flares to help the officers on the ground locate the bad guys.
Since the main focus of the gyrocopter is for drug enforcement, the cost of it will come from the city’s drug confiscation fund and not from taxpayer money.
Gall said the city checked with the South Carolina Attorney General’s office to make sure the drug fund could be used for the purchase since the aircraft will be used for other police activities.
“They assured us it was a legitimate use of the fund since the primary use will be for drug enforcement,” Gall said.
This will be the only gyrocopter in use by police in the state and one of only a handful in the country.
Gall said other departments across the country have helicopters or airplanes but those come at a high cost he couldn’t justify.
The only cost to the taxpayers will be approximately $12,500 a year for maintenance, upkeep and insurance. The aircraft will be housed in the General Aviation area of the Myrtle Beach International Airport.
Because of its size, it only needs about 300 feet to take off and only about 50 feet to land.
Gall said the department already has two certified pilots on staff who only need to add on the gyrocopter certification to their already existing pilot licenses.
He said the German made aircraft could be here in about three months after the order is placed.