Drones may soon aid in search and rescue operations - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Drones may soon aid in search and rescue operations

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HERMISTON, OR - The Umatilla County Sheriff’s Department believes that the time is now to launch a drone program. Such a program would supplement current resources and policies with the department’s search and rescue operations.

Currently, the department has just one qualified drone pilot, Sergeant Dwight Johnson, who passed all the testing requirements. But he says the program has a long way to go before it’s fully capable of its potential.

“We're still learning as we go. This is a relatively new technology,” Sgt. Johnson said. “It's being used in some parts of the country, but it's relatively new out here.”

They’re learning as they go, but Sgt. Johnson has a vision of how unmanned aircraft search and rescues might work.

“If we have someone that we think might be down in a drainage,” Sgt. Johnson said, “we anticipate being able to deploy a team up to a launch site, get the aircraft down into the drainage, work the drainage back and forth and hopefully be successful in locating somebody.”

In the process of improving their operation, the county’s new drone pilot has found a new hobby.

“It's a lot of fun. I see why it's becoming a very popular hobby.”