Custer Search & Rescue drone program taking flight

CUSTER S.D. – For emergency responders, having an eye in the sky early in an emergency situation can save a life.

Custer County Search and Rescue now has a state-of-the art piece of technology to help with a variety of situations.

“This is just game changing, nothing less than game changing,” said Rick March, the director for the county’s search and rescue team.

After about a year, the team’s drone program is taking flight. Though the drone is operated by search and rescue, it can be used in a variety of situations from law enforcement to fire crews.

“We’ll be able identify where the patient is located, and it will really speed up operations especially in the winter or in night operations when we have foul weather,’ March said.

The drone is equipped with all kinds of gadgets. It has two cameras, one thermal infrared and another with a thirty times optical zoom. It has the ability to see people in the pitch black of night.

Through an LCD touch screen, pilots get a first hand look to what the drone is seeing. They can then hook that picture up to a t-v so multiple people can see what the drone sees.

The drone can also carries supplies and equipment.

“We can drop a radio, instructions on what they’re supposed to do, it’s really got a lot of capability for remote areas,” said March.

The drone is also rugged enough to fly in the rain and in temperatures of four below zero. And for smaller communities like Custer which rely on volunteers, the drone saves time and resources.

“The day of the volunteer is challenged right now,” said Mike Carter, the Director of Custer County Search and Rescue. “We can never replace those volunteers but we can support them with the use of technology.

The $30,000 machine requires a pilot’s license to fly, and extensive training. Over half of the cost was fronted by community members in Custer.

Categories: Custer Community Showcase, Local News, South Dakota News