Taking to the skies

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 29, 2023

A new drone, used by the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office since summer, comes in for a landing at the Joint Response Operations Center in Coal Grove on Wednesday. (The Ironton Tribune | Heath Harrison)

Sgt. Steve Sisler, with the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office, shows Katherine Lamp, president of the Foundation for the Tri-State, how the drone is operated. (The Ironton Tribune | Heath Harrison)

Sheriff’s office says drone is great aid to department

COAL GROVE — Since July, the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office has been making use of a new piece of equipment that they say can aid them in a number of tasks.

On Wednesday, Sheriff Jeff Lawless and his department showed a DJI Mavic 3 Thermal to the media at an event at the Lawrence County Joint Response Operations Center in Coal Grove.

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Lawless said the $7,300 drone was paid for through a donation from Foundation for the Tri-State, with Project Life Saver making up the remaining $2,730.

Lawless said the drone can have many uses for the department, noting that they had to call in and wait for a drone in 2017, when law enforcement was searching for a quadruple murder suspect for days in the wooded part of the county.

The county’s terrain makes a drone a needed piece of equipment, he said.

Lawrence County is made up of 292,000 acres, Lawless said, and Wayne National Forest accounts for 72,000 acres of that, with Dean State Forest taking up 2,759 acres.

“And that doesn’t include county privately-owned wooded areas,” he said.

Equipped with thermal sensors, the drone can help to pinpoint a suspect.

Lawless pointed out that when the drone is high in the air, its rotor blades can not be heard from the ground.

“They won’t know this drone is in the air,” he said.

They gave a demonstration of the equipment, first having it take off within the JROC building, before going outside and Sgt. Steve Sisler sent it high into the sky over the village, where, at its zenith, it could barely be seen against the clouds, and only if you knew where to look.

Lawless said the device has humanitarian uses as well, noting that it has been used to locate people lost in the woods near Lake Vesuvius.

He said Upper Township has a similar drone, which was used to deliver water bottles to people stranded in the woods.

“And, if you have someone lost in the woods, and they need medicine, Steve can get that to them as well,” Lawless said.

Katherine Lamp, president of Foundation for the Tri-State, said her group was happy to fund the equipment.

“We are always excited for the opportunity to save a life,” she said.