Drone used to help emergency crews for the first time in the Ozarks

Published: Mar. 28, 2018 at 10:39 PM CDT
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Crews were sent out to help a man who drove on to Kinser Bridge and suddenly found himself in the flooded James River at the Crighton Access Point Tuesday night.

We've now learned that a drone was used as part of that rescue.

This technology is something you only see in larger cities like Saint Louis.

The drone operator has to have clearance through the Federal Aviation Administration and special certification to operate it, especially at night. Essentially, the operator is a pilot.

Tuesday night, the Logan Rogersville Fire Department called on their resources to put this technology to the test.

"The technology is getting to the point where most departments are able to afford lower end drones," said pilot Tom Baird.

Lower end doesn't mean it doesn't have all the latest bells and whistles. It has plenty to be an important tool for fire fighters even in the black of night.

"It's equipped with both a 4K camera and also an infrared camera so that we can see at night, see heat signatures whether that be from a vehicle or someone who may be lost," explained Baird.

He was able to help crews find a man who needed help faster than if they were to search waterways by boat or on foot.

"He was just on his car and had probably made some bad choices but we were able to get eyes on the person who was on top of their vehicle without sending anybody into the water. We knew how many people were on the vehicle. We were able to access their condition before we sent people out into the water," said Baird.

He was able to get the drone in the air within seven minutes. He saved crews crucial time they needed to get the man to safety.

"It speeds the recovery process probably ten times over because you know if there are resources that you don't have at the scene you can call those resources in," he said.

Baird has to follow all the FAA rules that airplane pilots do.

It started out as somewhat of a hobby for him but has turned into a passion for helping emergency crews in times of crisis.

"The cool factor and flying the drone and seeing the live stream and seeing beautiful pictures, that's all fabulous. But when you get called out to do a water rescue or a search and rescue mission for a child that is missing, that's what makes it all worth it," he said.

Baird has been certified to fly drones for years.

Tuesday night was the first time he flew his 'rescue' equipped drone. It was the first used in a rescue effort in the Ozarks.

Baird is hoping to work with more local fire departments soon.