Drones: Game changer for keeping you safe

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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live)- It’s a game changer for keeping you safe. They’re drones. Just last week, one was used to find a missing boy in a field in central Minnesota and just on Friday, a drone was used in our backyard in a search for a man who police believed wanted to harm himself.

A mental health crisis in rural Cass County. That’s what authorities were busy dealing with Friday night. A drone was just one of the many tools they used in that search.

Captain Chris Pieper has been with the Fargo Fire Department for nearly two decades. During that time, he has watched technology evolve. When the department acquired a drone a little over a year ago, he was excited to see how it could help. Plus, he already had some experience working with one.

"I was a hobbyist pilot, I had been flying a drone myself for almost two years," says Fargo Fire Captain Chris Pieper.

In fact an entire unit was formed involving officers, firefighters and deputies from a handful of local agencies. They’re devoted to drone training and using this technology to help serve you.

"When we detect an image, we can lower it down to verify is that a person, is that an officer, a firemen, is it a dog or is it deer? Once we verify what it is, then we can get the coordinates," says Pieper.

So with winter around the corner, how do they work in the cold? Believe it or not, the cold weather actually makes it easier to track down who or what they're looking for and authorities have high hopes for its future.

One officer tells us being able to find a missing boy like what happened in central, Minnesota makes all the training on this new technology so much worthwhile.

The drone unit is called the Red River Valley Unmanned Aircraft Systems Unit. It’s made up of five agencies including Fargo Fire, Fargo Police, West Fargo Fire and West Fargo Police along with the Cass County Sheriff's Office. There are 15 FAA licensed Part 107 Unmanned Aircraft Pilots spread among the 5 agencies.

Additionally, Captain Pieper wants to remind drone operators that they need to follow FAA regulations and rules in order to have a safe flight. You can find those here: https://www.faa.gov/uas/recreational_fliers/.