Flying to new heights

Hamilton County Emergency Management obtains drone

— Daily Freeman-Journal photos by Adri Sietstra Hamilton County Supervisor Doug Bailey takes control of the county’s new Phantom IV Pro drone. The drone, equipped with a camera, is operated by a controller and an iPad. County Emergency Management officials took the drone on its inaugural flight last week. The drone was purchased with grant funds through the Iowa Communities Assurance Pool.

Thanks to the purchase of a new drone, Hamilton County Emergency Management will have an eye in the sky.

The drone, which cost $2,200, was purchased through Iowa Communities Assurance Pool (ICAP) grant money. It is licensed with the FAA and registered with Hamilton County Emergency Management.

The Phantom IV Pro drone comes with a controller and rechargeable batteries. An iPad was also purchased with the grant money. With the iPad, users can monitor the drone’s location, take photos and videos via a high definition camera, and track where the drone is going.

The Phantom Pro also comes with active track. This feature allows the user to click on an object on the iPad’s screen and follow that object’s path.

The drone arrived at the EMC office on Dec. 19. Hagan took the drone out for its inaugural flight that same day. Other employees at the Hamilton County Courthouse also had the opportunity to test out the new equipment.

The new technology will benefit much of Hamilton County, according to Dylan Hagen, Hamilton County Emergency Management Coordinator and Safety Coordinator.

“We have safety meetings every month and it was brought up in one of the safety meetings that the county would benefit from a drone,” said Hagen.

Hagen hopes to train members of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, Webster City Fire Department and Hamilton County Engineers’ Office within the next few weeks.

“I’ve talked with the sheriff’s office,” said Hagen. “Anytime they have a missing person – say they’re in a cornfield – we can fly above the cornfield and look down the rows instead of sending a large amount of people into the cornfield.”

The drone may also be used by the Webster City Fire Department for future needs. Hagen explained that the drone would be helpful in hazmat conditions.

“We could size up the scene before sending firefighters in,” said Hagen.

Along with hazmat situations, the WCFD will be able to use the new technology for future river rescues. As Webster City is located next to the Boone River, Webster City Fire Chief Chuck Stansfield noted the benefits this would give the department and those in need of rescue.

According to Hagen, the engineers’ office will use the drone for bridge inspections, building inspections and other county projects.

“They’re putting that new bridge up south of town,” said Hagen, “and they’d like to have photos as it progresses along with the conference center at Briggs Woods.”

Emergency Management will also be able to use the drone for damage assessment.

“It will be a great asset once we get everybody trained,” he said.

Several other Iowa counties have also used ICAP grant money to purchase drones.

“A majority of counties are getting them now,” said Hagen.

In order to fly the equipment, Hagen will be getting his Small Unmanned Aircraft System (SUAS) pilot license. Members of law enforcement and the county will be able to fly the drone under Hagen’s license.

“We have to follow the FAA guidelines for flying a drone,” Hagen said. “We’ll have the paper work since we are a government agency.”

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