Reach for the Skies

The Lincoln County Emergency Management Department is the most recent set of emergency responders to make use of drone technology, according to the Argus Leader. The team will use an Inspire 1 model drone for search and rescue missions, sharing the technology with local law enforcement.

"We've had definite times when it would've been useful when searching for people," Lincoln County Emergency Manager Harold Timmerman said to the Argus Leader.

The article also points out the privacy concerns and relative lack of oversight in South Dakota for law enforcement agencies using drones, besides a permit from the FAA. The Grand Forks Sheriff's Department has used a drone an average of nine times a year since 2013, Deputy Alan Frazier told the Argus Leader.

"It's a relatively low number, but we're a sparsely populated area. The quality of the assistance is high,” he said. The drone saves time in documenting crime scenes, improves accuracy and giving evidence in court, according to Frazier, who says that usage is determined by a committee of community members, university employees, county government officials and public safety employees. The committee has authorized drone usage for searching for suspects, locating victims, mapping crime scenes, performing crash analysis, analyzing disaster scenes and traffic control at large outdoor events, according to the Argus Leader.

"Clear regulations must (be) in place for drone usage by law enforcement or the government, and those regulations should be decided by the public’s representatives and elected officials – not by police departments," Libby Skarin, the ACLU public policy director for South Dakota, told the Argus Leader. "Those regulations must be clear, written, and open to the public.”