Miami County Sheriff’s Office adds drone to its fleet of enforcement tools

An unmanned aerial vehicle has been added to the Miami County Sheriff's Office as the newest piece of technology that could help make the difference between locating a lost person or suspect on the run.

The law enforcement agency finally bought the drone this month after discussing the purchase for more than a year.

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Thursday, Sheriff Dave Duchak and several members of the sheriff's office got their first look at what the drone can do.

"Impressive," he said to News Center 7’s James Rider.

Deputy Richard Manns, who has a pilot's license and is certified to fly a UAV, said, "It can cover a lot more ground in just a few minutes as compared to maybe an hour for several ground units. In this cold weather that could be the minutes that count between life and death."

Manns said he took a lot of time researching before he decided on the roughly $4,500 DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual as a “Swiss-army knife” of what’s available and how it can serve Miami County’s needs.

The drone has a high-resolution camera, lights, thermal imaging capability and propeller guards that can become operational for flying indoors in case it bumps into a wall. It also has the ability to detect nearby manned aircraft. It has a built-in ADS-B receiver, which receives transponder traffic from manned aircraft and will alert Manns when an aircraft is nearby and show him a map of its location and speed.

The sheriff clearly likes the choice Manns made.

“I've been around a drone before but the functionality that this has form the audible speaker to the lights to the speed that it can travel and the high resolution of photos,” the sheriff said. “Very impressive piece of equipment."

Duchak said he sees the uses for the drone expanding over time. He said he’s making the drone available to area law enforcement departments should the need for one arise.

Manns also said the sheriff's office is considering other uses for the drone, such as sending it into a building to clear it before officers go inside, or allowing SWAT teams to use it to survey an area during on of their operations.

These days, the department is waiting for permission to fly the done at night.

Duchak said the sheriff's office financed the drone through cash seized from drug arrests (after arrest and conviction, of course). No taxpayer dollars were involved, he said.

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