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OSAGE | Mitchell County Emergency Services purchased a drone this month for the county’s emergency responders to use.

“It’s another asset we can utilize now,” Mitchell County Sheriff Greg Beaver said.

Beaver said the sheriff’s department could use the drone for aerial views of traffic accidents for investigation as well as search and rescue.

Though it has not been used yet, Captain Kris Olson of the Osage Fire Department said he’s confident it could be used at any time.

The drone is easy to assemble for quick use in an emergency situation with removable propellers. 

“It kind of looks like an overgrown insect," Olson said, laughing. 

It is stored and moved around in a large black case. The batteries are rechargeable and the video display can be a smart phone or tablet.

“It’s user friendly,” Olson said. "We're still learning." 

Drone operators must have an FAA drone pilot license. 

“We can only fly based on what state law requires,” Beaver said.

Olson is one of three designated emergency responders with the license and training to operate the drone. A St. Ansgar fire fighter and a Mitchell County deputy will be able to fly the drone as well.

Olson believes that the drone is a great tool for emergency responders in Mitchell County.

“It’s a great tool for us to have in our toolbox,” Olson said.

Many emergency responders in the state and around the country use drones and they're becoming more common, Olson said. 

"We're not the last ones in Iowa to have one," Olson said. 

Osage Fire Chief Kurt Angell said the drone would be helpful to get a better view of field fires and make command decisions.

“They eyes in the sky for us will be good because we’ll be able to see the top of and the back maybe of some fires,” Angell said.

Angell said there have been several instances where having a drone would have been useful.

Mitchell County Emergency Management Coordinator Ray Huftalin said the DJI Inspire II drone was paid for through grants and budget funds.

“We’ll keep it at Emergency Management,” Huftalin said.

Huftalin has been working on acquiring the equipment for six months.

“It will be used for training too,” Huftalin said.

This summer, Emergency Management will fly the drone along the Cedar River from the Minnesota boarder down to the Floyd County line to monitor the condition of the river for debris and more. From there Floyd County will continue along the river.

The departments are looking into grants for additional camera lenses including thermal imaging.

“We’re not going to spy on anybody,” Angel said. “We’re trying to make things safer in what we do and more efficient.”

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