Garvin County Approves Purchase Of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle

Thursday, May 29th 2014, 10:50 pm
By: News 9

Garvin County will soon be the first county in Oklahoma to launch drones for emergencies and fighting fires.

The county already bought the unmanned aerial system, but the Federal Aviation Administration has not yet approved drones for that use.

Garvin County plans to use the drones for wildfires, rescues and flooding to get a bird's-eye view on whatever situation responders are up against.

Emergency Management Director Bud Ramming said he plans to launch the UAV in the next two to three weeks.

"I just could not see us not at least trying this out," Ramming said.

Ramming said he has been researching UAVs for years and said he will follow any FAA regulations once the agency comes up with them.

"We are going to follow the FAA rules," said Ramming. "I don't really see them banning this for emergency uses."

However, Ramming said he is not waiting on FAA approval to launch the UAV.

Garvin County Commissioners approved the purchase on Tuesday, and Ramming has already bought the $2,300 UAV.

It resembles a miniature helicopter and can fly up to four miles.

It is GPS programmed, has a camera on its belly and feeds back live video to incident commanders.

"Right now, the nation's fire service is waiting on a ruling from the FAA," State Fire Marshal, Robert Doke, said.

Doke has openly said he wants to use UAVs for firefighting, but he is waiting because the FAA has not approved drones for commercial use and fighting fires is currently considered a commercial use.

"It's going to be something that is going to be the new technology for emergency first responders in the future," Doke said.

Ramming said the 12 fire departments in Garvin County have already had several situations where a UAV would have come in handy.

"I'm really excited about being able to put this in use, and I know my fire chiefs throughout the county are really anxious," Ramming added.

Ramming said three people are currently qualified to fly the UAV, and it will only be used at the request of emergency services.

The county will come up with its own policies and procedures to follow on top of whatever regulations the FAA establishes.