SMITH CO. - The Smith County Sheriff's Office plans to put their drone technology to good use in future emergency situations, after capturing aerial video of the explosive fires at Tyler Welders Supply on Tuesday.
While conditions made it dangerous for first responders to get too close, Sheriff's officials were able to launch one of their two new drones from a safe distance.
This gave firefighters the ability to monitor conditions from afar.
"It was impossible for the personnel to get close to the fire itself," said Sgt. Darrell Coslin, Smith County Sheriff's Public Information Officer, "The high risk of injury due to the shrapnel from the exploding containers out there..."
The drones have only been around for about two months, but officials said they're already being put to good use.
"They allow the on scene commanders to understand what was going on with the fire and explosions. Where it was isolated, what other parts of the facility that weren't yet exposed to the fire and we could plan accordingly for an evacuation," Coslin said.
While the drones can reach up to 1,600 ft., operators for the department try to keep them no more than 400 ft. above the ground.
The Sheriff's Office said they're cost effective too, with a quicker response time and are less expensive than other methods.
"We could have this drone up in the air within just a few minutes and doing basically the same thing the helicopter does at much less cost to the tax payers."
As for their use, officials said the possibilities are endless, from locating suspects and stolen vehicles to navigating fires and severe weather.
"If we have extreme flooding or weather or where we have debris down when we had the tornadoes up in the Lindale area...Any opportunity we have that we can use it that will benefit the detectives or the patrol bureau, SWAT guys, we're going to use it," Coslin said.
The Sheriff's Office also said they're planning a class to train more pilots to operate the drones. They hope to have a team of up to eight officials on call 24/7 to fly the machines in case of an emergency.
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