UCSO to use new drone at Balloon Fest

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Union County Sheriff’s Office Detective Mike Justice looks on as he flies the Sheriff’s Office’s drone last month. The county’s drone will be used during this weekend’s All Ohio Balloon Fest to assist with parking and security.
(Journal-Tribune photo by Will Channell)
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All other such devices not allowed in area
If All Ohio Balloon Fest patrons see a small aircraft in the air during the event Aug. 10-12, they shouldn’t be alarmed.
The Union County Sheriff’s Office will be helping with keeping track of traffic flow and security by providing an eye in the sky via their new drone. During a practice run at the Union County Airport last month, officials told the Journal-Tribune about what they’ll be doing at the Balloon Fest, and why they bought the device.
Det. Mike Justice, who’s in charge of flying the drone, said it will allow the Sheriff’s Office, who are providing security at the festival, to see if side roads are backing up. He said the aircraft can fly for 20 minutes at a time, and they’ll be cycling batteries so it can stay up indefinitely.
During law enforcement operations, the Sheriff’s drone can compliment the drone the city purchased last year.
“We want to let the public know we have a couple pieces of equipment to help with law enforcement,” Justice said.
Sheriff Jamie Patton said they first saw the model they settled on being used by Gurnsey County.
“We saw the application for our community,” he said. “It’s another tool that could potentially keep officers out of harm’s way.”
In all, the craft cost $27,000, which Patton said came out of funds attained through criminal forfeiture. He said no taxpayer money was used to buy the drone.
Patton said the drone was built specifically for what the Sheriff’s Office plans to use it for. Both the Sheriff and the city’s drone have different applications. The city’s can drop and object up to a pound, while the Sheriff’s is water resistant, allowing flight in the rain.
Justice said the drone is only allowed to fly up 400 feet to prevent collision with other aircraft that might be flying a bit higher.
City officials using the drone go through similar checklists as plane pilots. Before every flight, whoever’s controlling the drone must go through a pre-flight briefing to discuss conditions and the goals of the flight. When flying, the have to follow the same rules as pilots.
The drone the city uses was about $2,000. Police Chief Floyd Golden told the Journal-Tribune last year that drones can help them during foot chases and manhunts.
According to Federal Aviation Administration rules, those flying drone recreationally must notify local airports if they’re flying within five miles of it. Airport officials are asking residents not to fly any unmanned aircraft within five miles of the event.
The FAA website lays out some basic rules for drone flight, including never to fly over events, stadiums, emergency response or large groups of people without permission. Permits are available for those interested for both commercial and recreational flight.
More information about drone flight and guidelines can be found at the county airport’s website.

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