The McFarland Police Department Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Team currently consists of three certified pilots and one UAS (drone). The team strives to enhance its ability to serve the community while equally protecting constitutional rights, privacy interests and public safety. Most requests for the UAS occur for investigations involving missing/endangered persons, fleeing persons and aerial views at large events to manage public services. The pilots are licensed under the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Part 107 Small-Unmanned Aerial System certification process. The pilots enhance their skills through training exercises within the Village and with outside agencies. The UAS has proven successful in many different situations since the program started in 2019.
UAS are an excellent tool for gaining an aerial perspective of an event. For instance, firefighters and investigators on the ground can only see at ground level from outside a burning building and have difficulty seeing other parts of the fire. When using the UAS from above, live updates can give responders a better view and understanding of what is happening and how to put out the fire. Different views can also help determine the source or cause of a fire, especially in large fires like a grass or forest fire.
Similarly, during a search for a missing person, it would take a group of first responders a long time to individually check areas for a person. With the UAS, the operator can fly over and search larger areas in a short amount of time. It also allows the operator to see down into difficult to access terrain, or tall vegetation like corn fields.
During natural disasters, such as floods or tornadoes, UAS have been used to survey large areas to better direct first responders to locating hazards quickly which would take much longer for individuals on the ground to do.
With thermal imaging, a UAS can interpret heat signatures in live images, even during hours of darkness or in dense vegetation like farm fields. This capability helps first responders locate persons who are normally concealed from view.