By BRAD KEITH
TheFlashToday.com NEWS & SPORTS – FREE & LOCAL
STEPHENVILLE (October 13, 2015) — It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s…..
No, it isn’t Superman, but the newest crime fighting and public service tool at the Erath County Sheriff’s Office is super in a plethora of ways.
The sheriff’s department has invested $8,000 of forfeiture funds into a top of the line drone manufactured by Masxsur, a high-flying machine equipped with a 360-degree video and still camera.
“A while back we were searching for an elderly Alzheimer’s patient and it took us a few hours to find him. If we had this then, we probably would have found him within 10 minutes,” said Erath County chief deputy Jason Upshaw. “There are so many ways this can help us, whether it’s a hostage situation, or any kind of situation where we feel there could be danger to our officers or anyone else for that matter. This gives us the chance to see what’s going on without having to risk human life.”
Upshaw and narcotics investigator Randy Fowler control the drone, with Fowler flying the machine and Upshaw working the high-tech camera. They demonstrated it for The Flash, a handful of deputies and even a couple volunteer firefighters who stopped by ECSO Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s a lot more nerve-wracking,” said Fowler when asked if it was similar to playing a video-game style flight simulator. “This thing’s worth eight thousand dollars.”
And should pay for itself 10-fold very quickly.
“This is an absolutely invaluable tool,” said Upshaw in the midst of citing the many specs that make the drone such an impressive addition to the ECSO arsenal.
Indeed it is.
The drone can soar up to 400 feet in the sky, can travel up to a full mile away from its controls – which really do remind one of video game controllers with an electronic tablet attached – and can move at a blistering 60 miles per hour.
Note that the one mile travel radius is not just from takeoff point, but from anywhere the controls are transported.
“We can be driving and we can operate this thing, as long as we stay within a mile of it,” said Upshaw.
If the drone loses communication with its controllers, it returns it uses GPS technology to return itself to its most recent takeoff spot. That same technology allows Upshaw and Fowler to view exact paths of travel or to view a straight line of travel from their location to the drone.
The machine even has lights for flying at night.
“It’s pretty bright,” said Upshaw, before adding with a smile, “But we’ve got black electric tape if we need to cover those up.”
Even the batteries were thought of. They can power 25 consecutive minutes of flight, and ECSO has enough batteries that by the time the last one dies, the first one can be fully charged.
“I can think of so many scenarios where this will help us, and I’m sure there will be many instances where we use it for things I haven’t even thought of,” said Upshaw.
So if you’re a criminal up to no good or on the run in Erath County, don’t just keep a watch over your shoulder.
You’d better also be looking to the sky.