COWETA, Oklahoma – Until recently, when first responders in Coweta wanted a bird’s eye view of damaged areas to search for people in need, they would have needed a helicopter and lots of manpower – something the small law enforcement agency couldn’t afford.
Thankfully, thanks to advances in drone technology, this is no longer the case.
It was around 10:30 p.m. Sunday night when Mike Bell, Coweta Police Chief, knew it was time to take action.
“Unlike a lot of storms I’ve seen since I’ve been here, this one looked like it was headed straight for Coweta,” said Bell. “I was listening to the radio, I told my boys to take cover.”
Like the police chiefs in many Oklahoma cities on Sunday night, he sounded the sirens, and when the storm passed it was time to begin the search.
“How big was the damage,” he said. “Was someone hurt? Do we have fatalities? “
Historically, it is a huge effort – which thanks to technological advances is no longer the case.
“What it would take five teams to measure, we can send the drone up and do it with a man who flies the drone,” said Bell.
Equipped with a camera, an LED spotlight and a loudspeaker system, the department’s state-of-the-art drone enabled the officers to search for victims from the sky without sunlight on Sunday.
“If we actually see someone on the ground who looks like they’re injured, we can actually bring the drone over to them and say you’re fine,” he said.
Fortunately, when his infrared cameras inspected the rubble-strewn Coweta High School stadium on Sunday night, there were no signs of people in need.
“That’s phenomenal,” said Bell. “That gives me a lot of information. That gives the fire chief a lot of information. “
It is a tool not only to identify those in need, but also to keep those who help them safe from danger.
“We can actually use it in an active shooting situation, for example,” he said. “You can send it down the hallways and examine the hallways before we send teams down the hallway.”
Because of this, Chief Bell believes that the $ 6,000 investment in the technology has already paid off.
“It’s a blessing,” he said. “It’s probably one of the best tools you can ever have.”
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