Illinois County Begins Using Drone for Public Safety

RICK HAYES, Chicago Daily Herald

After receiving clearance from its insurance carrier, Franklin County officials have implemented use of a drone. Emergency Management Agency coordinator Ryan Buckingham reported at Monday's county board health and environment committee meeting the drone was used during the recent bomb threat at the Franklin County Courthouse. "We cleared the top of the building with it," Buckingham said, noting county officials responded well to the emergency.

"As far as evacuation of employees, we probably need to do some one-on-one with officeholders to make sure em ployees understand better the policies and procedures." "It went very well. I was pleased with what happened," Sheriff Don Jones added. Chairman Randall Crocker complimented the sheriff and his staff for the arrest of the person presumed responsible for the bomb threat. 

On the same day of the bomb threat, the county activated the drone for an accident on the interstate involving hazardous materials. "We've already seen a savings in manpower hours for people not having to truck through different areas in individual sections," he said. "We could just fly over the area, collect the data and send it (to police)." 

Buckingham said there was a lot of work involved in clearing the drone for use, including approval from the Federal Aviation Authority. He credited deputy director Gary Lytle for getting through the necessary paper work to make it happen. Buckingham said he is pursuing thermal imaging funding for the drone, which would allow county officials to use it during night time hours for search and rescue missions, criminal activity and/or hazardous materials incidents. 

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