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Mitchell County drone 1

Capt. Kris Olson of the Osage Fire Department attaches the drone's propellers. It is easy to assemble for quick use in an emergency situation. 

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 as it investigates traffic accidents, as well as search and rescue.

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

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

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

It is stored in a large, black case. Its batteries are rechargeable and its video display can be shown on a smart phone or tablet.

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

Drone operators must have an FAA drone pilot license, so Beaver said the county can only fly based on what state law requires. 

Olson is one of three designated emergency responders with the licensing and training to operate the drone. A St. Ansgar firefighter 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.

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Drones are becoming more common for emergency responders in the state and country, Olson said. 

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

First responders used a drone in July 2016 to locate and direct rescuers to an Algona man and his granddaughter, who were lost after their boat got stuck in the Des Moines River.

After they were located, emergency management services were able to quickly coordinate medical services at their location, as the man had suffered a heart attack. He was later released from the hospital. 

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.

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

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

This summer, emergency management will fly the drone along the Cedar River from the Minnesota border 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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