In 2016, the Sioux County Sheriff’s Office and Sioux County Emergency Management began researching the use of an unmanned aircraft system (UAS), commonly known as a drone. The agencies were looking for a system that would be used for a variety of situations including a search for missing persons, aerial surveillance for emergency situations, damage surveys and assessments and communications equipment inspections.
In September 2017, the agencies jointly purchased a DJI Matrice 210. The Matrice is a large platform UAS that is able to utilize two cameras. One camera has thermal imaging capabilities, which allows operators to see heat and conduct searches at night. The Matrice also has a payload drop system which would allow operators to drop light-weight objects such as water bottles, cell phones, life jacket, etc. to someone in need.
In January of 2019, the Sheriff’s Office purchased a DJI Mavic Enterprise. The Mavic is a smaller drone that has a camera, and also has an accessory port which allows the operator to attach a speaker, a high intensity light, or a strobe light. This drone is able to fly in doors and has different capabilities to give operators more options and safety during deployments.
The Sheriff’s Office and Emergency Management utilize four UAS operators to pilot the drones. All of the operators are trained certified UAS pilots through the FAA and must recertify every two years. The FAA has granted Sioux County a Part 107 waiver allowing for nighttime operations.
To date, the drone has been used on several calls for service including:
- Two train derailments
- Missing persons search
- Suspect at large
- Several flooding events, including damage assessments
- Structure fires
- Serious traffic accidents
- Security for high risk warrants
- Communications tower assessments
- Several training events.