They say “Everything’s Bigger in Texas” and for many Lonestar State’s public-safety agencies that includes “going drone or going home.”
In the small town of Midlothian, the Southern Regional Response Group recently deployed three members into drone training and certification using DJI Inspire 1, Mavic or Phantom 4 Pro quadcopters.
Gene Robinson of Drone Pilots Inc. conducted the training using various “real-life” scenarios including aerial flights to locate a fake bomb and a “dead body” dummy.
“We are using these for a purpose. We are using them for search and rescue,” Midlothian Police Support Services Commander Cody McKinney said in an interview with the Waxahachie Daily Light. “We are using them to serve the community in case we have a mass causality or a lost child. There are a lot of implementations for this technology and these devices. It is fascinating, to be honest.”
In one scenario, McKinney used a Mavic Pro and iPad interface to search terrain at a nearby national park and, less than four minutes after launch, he “noticed something interesting” promoting the officer to return the Mavic to home base and deploy a Phantom 4 Pro. The drone found the “bomb” after 11 minutes flight time.
“You have so many different things going on,” McKinney later noted:
“Not only are you responsible for flying and keeping the drone in the air but you are also trying to watch the camera and block out any distractions that are outside from people who want to know what is going on. Then you are also in the mindset of ‘I have to find this person’ so there is always a sense of urgency that puts you in a rush but you are also trying to be thorough. I like this practical application because now you can see what it is that you need to work on. Verbal communication is always the biggest thing.”
Other Texas law-enforcement agencies have already implemented drone programs for both standard criminal investigations and search-and-rescue. In the tiny town of Liberty, police used a drone to record imagery of a murder scene to assist the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office.
The body of local woman Latasha Green Rucker was found in August 2016 — four days later, police deployed a drone to take photos of the scene to be used in the trial of suspect Gerard Dante Simmons.
Liberty County Sheriff Bobby Rader hopes the success of the town’s police program will lead to a drone for his office.