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Published December 09, 2012, 10:09 PM

Grand Forks County Sheriff's Dept. gets a new tool to help in search and rescue

Grand Forks, ND (WDAY TV) -- The Grand Forks County Sheriff's Office says it's not for spying. It just got a federal license to use a small, unmanned aircraft.

By: Kayla Strayer, WDAZ, WDAY

Grand Forks, ND (WDAY TV) -- The Grand Forks County Sheriff's Office says it's not for spying. It just got a federal license to use a small, unmanned aircraft.

Deputies plan to use the 2 pound Draganflyer in situations, like search and rescue. The Draganflyer reaches heights of 400 feet and only carries a camera on board.

Officials say this is a monumental tool that will aid in searching for lost people, hazardous waste spills, disaster clean up and more.

Alan Frazier UND Aviation Professor: "We also plan on utilizing it for things like crime scene photography, and traffic accident scene photography which would help the detectives solve those cases."

It all began as a UND research project a few years ago. UND pilots will operate Draganflyer, which is approved for use in 16 North Dakota counties.

Alan: "It's not meant to be a spy tool. It's meant to be able to put a perspective in the deputies hands so that they can see the aerial view of a particular scene."

Bob Rost, Grand Forks Sheriff: "It's important that we take baby steps in this because this is new technology and we want to make sure we do everything right."

He says police will also have access to the aircraft as needed. He welcomes input from citizens, attorneys and interested parties regarding the policies moving forward.

Rost: "We're trying to cover all the avenues so that everybody has a say in how this aircraft is used."

Both men are confident the rest of the country will look to this area as a model of how valuable this technology can be.

The Sheriff's Office is leasing the Draganflyer for just $1 a year, thanks to UND grants.

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