This sheriff’s addition will do more than police work

LISBON — The Columbiana County Sheriff’s Office is getting a high-tech drone that can be used for other purposes, thanks in large part to a $10,000 donation from NEXUS Gas Transmission.

The award of the grant was announced at a recent event held at the county Emergency Management Agency.

“We are glad to help with local efforts to promote public safety,” said NEXUS spokeswoman Kristen Henson.

County Commissioner Tim Weigle said while the drone will officially be in the custody of the sheriff’s office, it will be available for more than just law enforcement and to other government bodies and agencies in the county for emergencies.

“We think that’s a good idea, to offer it up when someone is in need,” he said.

The search-and-rescue drone, or unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), is being purchased from the Utah-based Rocky Mountain Unmanned Systems at a cost of $27,486, plus another $1,500 to train the drone pilot.

Weigle said the county agencies that will benefit are helping cover the rest of the cost: the EMA, engineer’s office and county Development Department.

“They could use for any one of a number of emergencies,” Weigle said of the EMA, “such as a gas line rupture or a well fire, where it’s not safe to get someone close to it.”

The drone has infrared capability and takes high resolution photographs and video, including providing live video, which would help the EMA in assessing storm-damaged areas. The drone is capable of flying for 75 minutes at a time.

Weigle said county Engineer Bert Dawson and his staff can use the drone when checking on a road that may need realigned or rerouting a roadside ditch that is causing flooding problems.

“We had a lot of flooding in a place in Knox Township and Bert had me and them up in an airplane (Weigle is a pilot) to look at it and take pictures so he could figure a solution,” he said. The next time they could use the drone to get a bird’s eye look at the problem.

The development department expects to use it when checking on properties for potential development and when updating the detailed interactive digital county map (GIS) system still being developed.

Weigle said next step is to designate someone to serve as certified drone pilot and send them to Utah for training, which he hopes will be decided by the time it arrives.

Weigle ran into a fellow airplane pilot who happens to be one of two drone operators for the Mahoning County sheriff’s office. “He told me we’ve got the Cadillac of the drones,” he said. Weigle wants county Sheriff Ray Stone to contact the Mahoning County sheriff to determine if the deputy could be present once the drone arrives to offer suggestions to their UAV operator and answer questions during the initial practice session.

NEXUS is the name of the pipeline now in service that delivers natural gas from the collection and processing plant in Kensington to Ohio, Michigan and Canada. The company has issued $1 million in community grants so far, something NEXUS’ Adam Parker said they are happy to do .

“Our donation … is rooted in our commitment to being a good neighbor and helping build a strong and safe community where we work and operate. We are proud to partner with Columbiana County, and we value the role that they play in promoting public safety,” he said, in a news release.



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