Clark County Sheriff’s Office researching drones as state debates rules

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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The Clark County Sheriff’s Office is looking into possibly using drones in rescue situations at the same time a state group is creating regulations for the technology.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The Clark County Sheriff’s Office is looking into possibly using drones in rescue situations at the same time a state group is creating regulations for the technology.

The sheriff’s office recently began researching unmanned aircraft systems, commonly called drones, and how the devices can be used as a tool to find missing people and protect deputies, Maj. Christopher Clark said.

“A small child wonders off and gets into a corn field,” he said. “It may take us several hours to locate them by foot and just a matter of minutes to locate them by a drone.”

Some agencies in Ohio are already using the technology, but Clark said more guidance from the state on the use of drones would be helpful.

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“If we launch a program like this, we want to make sure we’re compliant with all state and federal regulations,” he said.

That guidance will come soon, said Clayton Harris, chairman of the Ohio Unmanned Aircraft Systems Advisory Group. The group was formed by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to create policies regarding the use of drones by law enforcement agencies.

“We can actually save lives with this type of technology,” said Harris, who is also the police chief at Cuyahoga Community College.

The group is made up of law enforcement, industry professionals and representatives from the attorney general’s office.

“It’s almost like a wild, wild west with this type of equipment,” Harris said.

Drone technology is constantly improving and changing, he said, and law enforcement needs to be able to keep up.

“So our role is to kind of gather the technology and information,” he said.

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The group expects to have a completed set of policies by the summer, Harris said, and to continue working together after the initial policies are agreed upon.

A drone could be useful in several situations locally, Clark said.

“It’d be a great benefit to law enforcement, fire and rescue, when it comes to trying to find somebody where time might be critical,” he said.

But the cost of the drone systems can vary widely, he said, depending on what features are purchased. Infrared cameras and GPS tools are both useful but expensive.

“We’ve seen them anywhere from $2,500 to up to $13,000 or $14,000, depending on the types of equipment you get on them,” he said.

Plus deputies would need to be trained to operate the technology, he said.

The sheriff’s office would need to determine a source of funding for the program, Clark said, but it’s still moving forward with its research of drones.

“There’s so many different uses for drone technology in this day and age that could be beneficial to increase officer safety and safety in the public,” he said.

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