The Northwest Regional SWAT team can now take to the air in unmanned flights when responding to dangerous situations.
The team has purchased a remote flying drone, which it can use for surveillance and intelligence gathering, said Merrillville police Sgt. Bob Morgan, commander of the SWAT team.
The drone, which can be operated with a cellphone, has a high-definition camera to take video and pictures.
The team — consisting of officers from Merrillville, Crown Point, Schererville, Dyer, Griffith, Hobart and Lowell — most likely would use the device during hostage or barricade situations, Morgan said.
The drone could be flown above and around structures to examine access points on the buildings, he said. If there is an opening at a structure, it also could be flown inside the building for surveillance.
Northwest Regional SWAT also is taking other steps to improve the team, officials said.
Morgan said the team is in the process of selecting paramedics to join the group in a joint effort between Northwest Regional and Lake County's SWAT teams.
Morgan said 12 paramedics are "trying out," and both teams would select paramedics from that group to join their squads. Those accepted to the Northwest Regional team will receive training through its SWAT school, Morgan said.
"It's one more thing to make our team better and more complete," he said.