Swinomish police use drone to catch assault suspect hiding under dock

SWINOMISH, Wash. -- Police used new technology to catch an assault suspect on the run.

About 1 a.m. Saturday, officers were called to the Swinomish Casino to a report of a man assaulting his girlfriend. The suspect ran off before police got there.

Police searched for the man in the dark, but couldn't immediately spot him. Rather than search through the dark, they deployed two new drones that use infrared technology.

The suspect was found in a matter of minutes hiding under a dock, using driftwood to conceal himself.

"He had actually bedded down behind the dock and kind of under a tree," said Swinomish Police Lieutenant Earl Cowan.

Cowan said the drone helped clear a large scene in minutes, and helped keep officers safe.

"Officers wanted to be very careful and this tool gave us that ability to check those areas that wouldn't otherwise be safe," Cowan said.

The drone operates much the same way a helicopter equipped with infrared technology; only much cheaper. Helicopters can take millions to maintain, Cowan said, while a drone only costs around $20,000.

"The obvious benefit is the cost savings," Cowan said. "We could do probably 80 percent of the missions you can do with a helicopter."

The suspect was arrested on suspicion of assault and outstanding warrants.