Eye on KELOLAND: A new perspective


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Just last month we told you how a pair of drones helped law enforcement find an attempted murder suspect in a Lincoln County slough.

That got us wondering about how this technology is helping those who wear the badge.

The Sioux Falls Police Department has been helping Animal Control get a count of the deer population in the area.

And there’s a new tool to help spot the animals.

“We’re seeing if we’re able to use the drone in the air to get an accurate deer count without having to send people out into the field to watch all day,” Sioux Falls Police Department Lt. Kevin Henkel said.

The police department’s Unmanned Aerial System or UAS program got off the ground earlier this year.

The flying technology can be put in use in a variety of ways in public safety.

“It can be used for everything from a serious fire to escaped convict to an accident crash scene or anything we need to map. Anything that will help us get an eye on the sky without having to bring in a helicopter or something really expensive, will help us do our job on the ground safer and more efficient,” Henkel said.

The South Dakota Highway Patrol also has a drone program.

Trooper and UAS Coordinator Sarah Schumacher says the drones are generally used to capture aerial photos during crash reconstruction.

“We can have one person flying the drone while we have other people taking other types of information. That allows us to get that roadway clear and open a lot sooner, so we can help prevent secondary crashes and prevent any traffic delays,” SD Highway Patrol Trooper Trooper Sarah Schumacher said.

A bird’s-eye view can also help first responders find missing people.

“If we have a patient with dementia or something like that and they wander away from their house we can use the drones to help locate that person safely in a pretty quick manner,” Schumacher said.

Drone use is taking flight more and more among law enforcement agencies.

“We were initially one of the early adopters of the technology, and now there’s a lot more agencies that are using it. I think it’s increased exponentially over the last two to three years as the technology has increased and people have realized that drones can be used for good things in law enforcement,” Schumacher said.

“I know I’ve had a couple different agencies reach out to me, asking how they can get started,” Henkel said.

Whether the drones are needed to track wildlife or if there’s a much more serious call at hand, the technology is just one more tool for law enforcement as they serve their communities.

“They’re being used across the country and as the technology–soon someday they’ll be delivering packages I’m assuming from Amazon from your front door. It’s only going to be more things for us to use in helping us do our jobs,” Henkel said.

Grant money helped the Sioux Falls Police Department acquire the drones.

The Highway Patrol paid for its drones through its budget.

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