Monday, August 19, 2019

North Dakota Highway Patrol and a sheriff's department in the state get federal permission to fly drones over people

The Federal Aviation Administration has granted the North Dakota Highway Patrol and the Burleigh County Sheriff's Department in North Dakota the permission to fly drones over people and populated areas. "The North Dakota patrol is the first state highway patrol agency in the country to receive the permission," Blake Nicholson reports for the Bismarck Tribune. "The Burleigh County Sheriff's Department is only the second county law enforcement agency in the nation to obtain it." In June, the North Dakota Transportation Department became the first state government agency to get an FAA permit to fly drones over people.

According to Col. Brandon Solberg, the highway patrol's superintendent, the waiver will allow troopers to safely document complicated vehicle crash scenes. The agency says the drones will also aid in finding missing people and fleeing suspects, Nicholson reports.

The patrol is in the process of buying a drone, and has already bought a parachute recovery system that makes it safer to fly over populated areas; if the drone falls, the system deploys a parachute, shuts down the rotors, and emits a buzzer to warn bystanders. If the patrol is satisfied with the drone, it plans to buy three more and base one in each quadrant of the state, Nicholson reports. The state legislature approved one-time funding of almost $100,000 for the program over the next three years.

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