Drone technology helps find runaway teens

The Tippecanoe County Sheriff's Office says it recently found 2 missing girls in a wooded area using drone technology.

Posted: Apr. 5, 2019 12:19 AM

TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) — The Tippecanoe County Sheriff's Office said it recently found two missing girls in a wooded area using drone technology.

They were found Tuesday night by thermal imaging near a trailer park in northern Tippecanoe County.

The girls were reported runaways early Tuesday evening.

The sheriff's office deploys two different types of drones to be as efficient as possible They have been using the technology since 2016, but this is the first time it has been used to find runaways.

"We have the capability of two cameras," said Deputy Rob Rush. "We have a daytime 4K camera and we have a FLIR thermal imaging camera."

The thermal imaging camera has pallets on it that change colors. They pick up heat signatures of people, animals, vehicles in day time or night time.

Rush, who is one of six pilots for the drones, said they are used for many different missions.

"We can use it to attempt to locate people that have maybe fled from a vehicle pursuit if led into the woods," said Rush. "There maybe some evidence, Alzheimer's patients, somebody that has wandered. It's just a great tool to have for us."

Captain Hainje with the Tippecanoe County Sheriff's Office said his agency is only one of a few that use this exact technology in the state. He said they often teach other law enforcement how to use it to prevent any sort of learning curve.

"As this becomes more prevalent technology we are doing additional trainings to assist other law enforcement and public service agencies to in trying to deploy drones in beneficial areas," said Hainje

The areas are all on a case to case basis. Finding the two girls in a wooded area was a team effort.

The drone was used to track the girls' last known location and then canines found the two.

Hainje says the drones have to be used in unique situations.

The sheriff's office has a partnership to explore other avenues of the drone's use.

"We do a lot of research with Purdue University with crash reconstruction and different types of flight techniques," said Hainje.

The drones used are a DJI Mavic 2 and a DJI Inspire one.

The Lafayette Police Department recently started using the UAV program to use thermal imagine on certain occasions.

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