Something new will soon be in the air at the Pittsburg County Sheriff's Office.

Sheriff Chris Morris said the sheriff's office has acquired a new Matrice 300 RTK model drone, also known as an unmanned aircraft system. It's filled with extra features he anticipates will help in protecting and serving the people of Pittsburg County.

No one is operating the drone at this time though — because a company representative is expected to travel to the McAlester area in the next few weeks to provide in-person training for sheriff's personnel.

Morris said there have been plenty of times when he's seen the need for a drone. Soon, enough officers should be trained as operators to enable the sheriff's office to utilize it whenever needed.

In case of missing children, missing hunters or elderly citizens who have wandered away, it can be a highly valuable tool during searches, the sheriff noted.

"It has heat sensors," Morris said, referring to the thermal imaging aspects of the drone.

Morris said it has a great LED lighting system, capable of lighting up an area around a house at night.

"If we're doing a search, you can monitor a house," he said. The drone comes equipped with a camera, capable of taking video. Morris said it also comes equipped with a speaker system, which could be used to address an individual during a search, for example.

He doesn't anticipate any problems with the drone's battery being "down" when it's needed.

"It came with eight batteries," Morris said. He said he has the equipment to recharge all eight of them at once, if needed.

It also has two controllers, which can be handled by two different operators. That gives one operator the capability of sending the drone in flight to a second operator located some distance away.

For example, it could be flown from the sheriff's office to somewhere such as Longtown, in northern Pittsburg County, where a deputy waiting there could pick up operations with the second controller.

Morris plans for multiple officers at the Pittsburg County Sheriff's Office to learn to fly the drone, including himself and Undersheriff Frankie McClendon. He expects them to obtain certification to operate it after successfully completing the training along with any other requirements.

The drone, with all its additional features, costs approximately $32,000 and was paid for through contributions made to the Pittsburg County Sheriff's Foundation, Morris said. 

He said he appreciates the Pittsburg County Sheriff's Department being able to get the new equipment.

"I'd like to thank the Sheriff's Foundation," Morris said. "They've taken care of us. This wouldn't be possible without the citizens and the businesses of Pittsburg County.

"All of this is working to make the county better," said Morris. It's good to know we have this."

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.

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