Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office will have a drone by the end of April

Published 9:00 am Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office plans to have a drone by the end of April to assist the department in a number of functions.

According to Freeborn County Sheriff Kurt Freitag, there have been incidents since he became sheriff that would have been made easier on first responders if a drone was in place.

He cited a couple of cases of elderly people getting lost outside in poor weather conditions — including an elderly woman who died after leaving her house in the winter  — as well as escaped convicts, people involved in vehicle pursuits, weather events and the drone’s planned use in other situations.

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The drone will feature crash avoidance sensors to prevent it from accidentally running into objects. A couple of cameras will be on the drone, and it will have a 35-minute flight time. Two drone operators have been identified.

“With the capabilities our drone will have, it will see heat signatures,” he said.

“If you put a drone in the air and a K-9 on the ground, we are going to find them.”

Freitag is not sure the drone will be deployable by the end of April.

“We still have a lot of things we have to get in place,” he said. “We have to get a complete drone policy in place.”

The cost of the drone is being paid for with an anonymous donation.

The Sheriff’s Office is working with a drone committee in conjunction with the Minnesota Sheriff’s Association. According to Freitag, the Sheriff’s Office wants to ensure it is in compliance with the Fourth Amendment when operating the drone.

“We are going to take a look at the model policies that they have in place and procedures, training techniques, things like that,” he said. “We are going to implement our own policy based off what we glean from them.”

According to Freitag, Freeborn County will assist neighboring counties that need the drone in certain situations. He cited a pipeline break earlier this year in Worth County and a train derailment last November near Ellendale.

“We will help them out under the rules of mutual aid,” he said.

Freitag said he has wanted to implement the drone into Sheriff’s Office’s operations for a while.

“We are very, very appreciative for this donation, and we certainly appreciate the entity that donated us the money,” he said. “We are going to have some very good uses and positive (uses), and it’s not just apprehension. It’s searching for Alzheimer’s patients who have wandered from a care facility, possibly little kids lost in corn fields, autistic people and scene assessment.”

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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