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South Dakota City Considers Buying Cross-Department Drone

In Mitchell, S.D., a handful of city departments, including the police, emergency management, parks and public works, are among those that intend to utilize the new unmanned aircraft system, if approved.

(TNS) — The Mitchell City Council will consider approving the purchase of a drone on Tuesday that would be used for multiple city departments, as needed.

A handful of city departments, including the Mitchell Police Department, Emergency Management Services, Parks and Recreation and the Public Works Department, are among the divisions of the city that intend to utilize the new unmanned aircraft system, if approved.

According to Mitchell Police Chief Mike Koster, the new drone is estimated to cost $8,184. The council will consider approving the request, which would be funded by the city's contingency funds.

The city of Mitchell purchased a drone in 2018, but Koster explained in his memo to the council that the equipment to operate the drone is "outdated technology" that's no longer supported.

With no drone available, Koster detailed in his memo the impact of being without a drone. He noted a drone could assist in "operations involving lost or missing individuals, fire scene ability to check hotspots in working fires and avoid sending in personnel, assisting in locating the source of grass fires, inspecting and documenting projects through the Public Works Department."

Drones have also become an integral part of law enforcement over the years, as more agencies utilize aerial technology for a myriad of matters such as pursuits and armed robberies.

The Davison County Sheriff's Office recently acquired a drone to assist the local agency.

In 2019, the council adopted a policy for city officials to operate drones. The policy outlines training procedures and complying with Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) regulations of unmanned aerial systems. The FAA is the agency that oversees compliance with drone regulations.

Flight boundaries for drones are mandated by the FAA, and city officials operating them must stay within those boundaries. Policy documents state the maximum altitude for a drone is 400 feet.

© 2023 The Daily Republic (Mitchell, S.D.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.