Myrtle Beach Police will purchase a gyrocopter with $207,000 in drug seizure funds to put an additional eye in the sky as they execute drug enforcement operations, officials said Tuesday.
The gyrocopter — a two-seat aircraft that is smaller than a helicopter — will be outfitted with a tracking system, camera and spotlight. Its total cost includes training for officers to operate it and extra equipment like its camera, and no other agency in South Carolina currently has a gyrocopter, officials said.
“The drug dealers that police have apprehended are the ones that are actually paying for the equipment,” City Manager John Pedersen said Tuesday.
In a presentation before city council, Chief Warren Gall said he didn’t want to be too specific about what the aircraft would be used for.
“I don’t want to give up some information,” Gall said. “But suffice to say it is an extremely useful tool to have to be able to conduct operations and have the ability to be able to move about without having to be stuck on the surface streets, which can cause all kinds of problems.”
Because the craft is paid for with drug forfeiture assets, it must primarily be used for drug enforcement, Gall said. However, it will also be used in some other situations — such as surveillance during large events like the Carolina Country Music Festival or the Memorial Day Bikefest rally.
Currently, officials from agencies across Horry County have to ask other agencies if they need an aircraft. In the case of a missing swimmer, for example, it could take up to an hour for a Coast Guard craft to come from Charleston or Wilmington.
The aircraft is expected to arrive in roughly three months. In addition to the purchase price, the gyrocopter will cost $12,500 in maintenance fees a year, which would be taken from the city’s budget.