South Dakota Fire Department Plans to Use Drone

January 5, 2015

A fire department in eastern South Dakota has gone high-tech with a new custom-built drone.

The unmanned aircraft will provide Brookings firefighters a panoramic view of structure fires, wildfires and gas leaks. The F450 quadcopter can even be used to search areas in missing person cases or to locate vehicles that have gone underwater, Fire Chief Darrell Hartmann said.

“We can tilt the camera so it looks directly down into the water,” he said. “From that angle, you can see underwater objects much better. While our divers are getting prepared to go in, we can launch this and get a visual of what’s going on, what we have.”

The drone was built for free by Arend Schuurman, an Elkton resident who works as a quality control technician at 3M in Brookings, the Brookings Register reported. He outfitted the quadcopter frame with long-life batteries, a memory card and a GoPro video camera.

“Arend came in on his own time and actually put it together for us,” Hartmann said. “Really, the neat thing is that Arend kind of went above and beyond. He actually purchased the same basic unit for himself to try it out to make sure it would work before he directed us on what to buy.”

Hartmann and deputy chief Pete Bolzer are the only fire officials currently qualified to operate the drone. The department will begin using the drone in emergency situations this spring after more firefighters have been trained.

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