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Police use heat-seeking drones catch suspects, protect officers

Published: Sep. 18, 2020 at 5:31 PM CDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA-TV) - The Pennington County Sheriff’s Office uses its drone to their advantage. And earlier this week, law enforcement used it to help locate a man wanted in connection with an early September shooting death.

The Pennington County Sheriff’s office has an extra tool to help with search and rescue, apprehension and people who have run.

And the drone even helped in a recent situation.

“[We] responded to the area with the drone got it up in the air, and then we turned on our thermal imaging camera, which goes off a heating sensor flying around the area. And as we saw some deputies walking away from an area, we noticed a heat signature that was in between the deputies. So we directed the deputies back into the area,” says deputy Chris Plawman who is apart of the Pennington County and Rapid City Drone Team.

The drone doesn’t only help law enforcement find people; it can also protect officers.

“We don’t have to put officers as close to the scene because we can get the drone overhead and zoom in and get real, accurate picture of what’s going on at the situation,” says Plawman.

Being airborne helps with travel time too.

“We don’t have to dodge around houses or anything. We just go over the top of it,” says Senior Deputy with the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office Jeff Jones, who also operates drones.

Now they can fly the drone in light snow and light rain, but there are some restrictions.

“This drone is rated to fly at about 27 miles an hour-wind. If it gets any windier than that, we will be grounded. And it is ruggedized so it can be flown in cold conditions, which is typically where we’re at in South Dakota,” says Jones.

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