Tornado aftermath: How drones assist in search and rescue efforts

Local News

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (KDVR) — Aerial drone video of the catastrophic scenes out of the Midwest and Southeast following last week’s tornado outbreak is helping rescue teams get to victims quickly and safely.

Officials have boots on the ground and in the air to find possible survivors who may still be trapped in the rubble.

FOX31 is getting an in-depth look at the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office’s drone unit to understand how the technology assists first responders. Deputies told us how these aerial systems are changing search and rescue efforts.

“We can’t fly as long or as far as a chopper, but we can focus on specific things without disrupting other operations as easy,” ACSD Deputy Bryan Teany said.

He’s one of nine people on the department’s unit who operates the drones for investigations and search and rescue operations.

Teany said it can save on manpower, save on valuable time during investigations, and even save lives.

“So we can go to a spot where maybe it may be unsafe to travel there on foot after a natural disaster … like in cases like what’s going on in the Midwest right now,” Teany explained.

ACSO showed FOX31 a drone that has a thermal camera attached to it. It can be helpful for officials looking for people trapped in rubble or potential fire danger.

“Fifteen years ago, if you wanted an overall photo of a crime scene, you’d have to get a firetruck out there, with a hook and ladder, stand a crime scene tech on the ladder, and have them take photos. Now we can do that in a few minutes,” Teany said.

And in situations like the ones in parts of the U.S. this week, every minute counts.

Nine people are on the department’s drone unit altogether, each of whom is required to have 40 hours of training before Federal Aviation Administration certification.

There are also 10 hours of monthly training (half hours required) every drone pilot in the department must attend. The FAA requires a recertification every two years.

If you own a drone and want to know about any restrictions on where you would want to fly, check out the FAA’s website for information.

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