‘Difference between life and death:’ Clay County Sheriff’s Office drones taking flight

A new drone program was launched in Clay County. The Clay County Sheriff’s Office announced Monday that the program will help law enforcement respond faster in emergencies.

“It’s the difference between life and death,” Clay County Sheriff Michelle Cook said.

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After seven months of research, Cook said the agency is bringing a new life-saving technology all across the county.

Cook shared a story about a couple who became lost in Jennings State Forest when they were trying to find their dogs, who had run off.

“They became disoriented and wandered for some time before calling 911,” Cook said. “CCSO patrol and CCFD responded and tried to find them for over an hour. My Emergency Preparedness Unit responded and launched their drone, which was the only drone we had at the time. Within minutes, the drone located the couple and their dog. The husband was in medical distress from severe dehydration and needed to be rescued from where they were located. If we had not been successful with the drone in locating these folks when it did, this situation might have had a very different outcome -- a recovery versus rescue. That’s why we’re pleased to announce the implementation of this program into our agency’s patrol operations.”

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The drone program will have a total of seven trained drone pilots.

During an emergency situation, law enforcement on the ground will now be able to expand their view so they can see everything from above.

This new program will help not only in search and rescue efforts but also active shooter incidents and disasters.

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It will also allow law enforcement to get closer to a dangerous situation without putting the public in harm.

“We have a cloud system where we can actually live and currently see where that drone is on a map and use that for search procedures,” Clay County Sgt. Christopher Glenn said.

According to Cook, purchasing drones compared to helicopters is more cost-effective for county taxpayers.

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She said a piloted police helicopter can cost between $500,000 to $3 million to purchase. But the cost of the drones was in the thousands, and they were purchased through operation funds.

Cook said the drones will be a game changer.

“I’m very excited to be adding drones to the cadre of tools that we have for our community,” Cook said.

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