Hennepin Co. sheriff's office adds drone to search and rescue fleet

The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office is using unmanned air carriers to help reduce risk and cost.

After a year of testing, and approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, Hennepin County has added a drone to its fleet.

"It's really a man power multiplier. We can deploy this pretty quickly and cover a lot of ground quickly,” said volunteer pilot and member of the special deputy program Eric Herman.

Sheriff Richard Stanek says the drone may have carried a purchase price of up to $7,000, but the one-time payment is better than the $600-$1,000 they pay per hour to use the State Patrol helicopter.

"If we were down here today using the helicopter at $600 to $700 an hour, for last night—what was three, four hours--and then today that's an eight-hour day,” he said. “You do the math.”

The Sheriff’s Office was using the drone along the Mississippi River Thursday for a body recovery.

The drones are operated by volunteers in the special deputy program. Out of 17 licensed pilots that operate the drones, five are full-time commercial pilots.

“This is the opportunity to bring someone home who's been lost. That's why I’ve been doing it,” said Herman, who assisted in the body recovery Thursday.