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Local

Emergency responders have high-tech eyes in the sky

Ogle County Sheriff's Department buys drone

OREGON – The next time there’s a missing person in Ogle County, public safety personnel will get some help from above.

The sheriff’s department has a new drone, and Sheriff Brian Van Vickle said the eyes in the sky can dramatically help in search-and-rescue operations, or tracking down criminals.

The drone utilizes both standard and thermal imaging cameras, allowing it to locate heat sources, particularly useful in finding people in secluded areas or wide open spaces.

“With this drone, a situation like what happened in Boone a few weeks ago could be easily prevented. A drone with a thermal cam could have spotted her in no time,” Van Vickle said, referring to Babe Briggs, an elderly Boone resident who was reported missing Oct. 10 and located the following morning in a cornfield, in critical condition.

“Nobody should spend a cold night in a corn field,” Van Vickle said.

Other uses for the drone, which can fly as high as 400 feet, include peering inside windows during structure fires to check for people inside.

“It’s not only less costly to get up and operate ... if it goes down, it costs a lot less to replace a drone than a helicopter,” Van Vickle said.

Personnel from the sheriff’s department and Mount Morris and Rochelle fire departments began training this week on piloting the drone.

The drone cost about $20,000, paid for by a pair of grants, and $6,000 paid from the drug fund.

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