Drones viable tool for first responders

Deputy Steve Warfield is one of the operators of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office’s drones.

Deputy Steve Warfield is one of the operators of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office’s drones.
Photo by Kurt Hildebrand.

Hovering like a hawk thousands of feet above the ground, with speeds up to 25 yards per second and equipped with dual vision, thermal imaging, laser rangefinder, zoom camera and up to an hour of fly time, it’s no wonder drones are joining law enforcement and emergency services.

Since 2017, drones have been helping Douglas County law enforcement and emergency services in many scenarios, including locating last summer’s COD Casino heist suspects.

“We had a general idea where they went and once we had a perimeter, we put the drones up and we were able to locate the suspect and approach in a safe manner,” said Sheriff Dan Coverely.

Chase Henderson, 33, and Andrew Toomey, 44, are accused of the July 14, 2023 robbery, where they allegedly took $40,000 from the casino and ran out of the building toward Esmeralda Avenue and Minden Park. 

Coverely said the drone was able to locate Henderson under some plywood in the yard of a County Road home, where he was taken into custody.

“The drone allowed us to see that he had a gun and the deputies were able to approach cautiously,” said Coverely. “If we had not seen him toss the gun on the drone, our men could have been in danger.”

Coverely said the use of drones helps in many situations law enforcement and emergency services face.

“The biggest use for them is locating people,” he said. “We can locate a person and narrow in and focus on where they might go, then find the best route to them.”

The drone’s features including aerial view, 3D mapping, and thermal imaging have been useful for crime scene documentation, assisting search and rescue, accident reconstruction and disaster response.

“We can locate damage and find drainage routes,” said Coverely. “A lot of the time it’s recording and taking pictures which can be used as evidence or data that can help in a given scenario whether in a case or for repairs.”

The drones joined the Sheriff’s Office in 2017 thanks to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Advisory Council.

Formed in May 2004, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Advisory Council is a nonprofit organization consisting of community volunteers dedicated to supporting the Sheriff’s Office by obtaining grants and private donations, which help fund education and training, technology resources, and other supplemental equipment. Visit www.sheriffscouncil.org for more information.

“They have been great ambassadors for the sheriff’s department and we appreciate all they do for us,” said Coverely.

DCSO currently has six drones manned by deputies Eric Lindsey and Steve Warfield.

Coverely said search and rescue utilizes two of the drones.

The drone used in the COD Casino robbery was a DJI Enterprise dual. The Sheriff’s Department also utilizes a M30T drone and a Brinc Lemur 2. Each are equipment with similar features, but the Brinc Lemur 2 can be flown indoors.

“All of the tools and features coming out are saving lives, both responders and civilians,” said Coverely. “It’s amazing technology and it really helps make a difference.”


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