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Tyler County LEPC Hosts Monthly Meeting

By Staff | Jan 16, 2019

Jacob Darrah and Jonathan Harker, members of the Blue Mountain/Thrasher Group Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) team, recently gave a presentation before the Tyler County Local Emergency Planning Committee on the company’s use of UAVs, along with experiences in starting a drone program. Darrah spoke on several different aspects of drone flying and gave a slideshow presentation for those present, to give a better understanding of what the company uses the drones for.

Darrah said a majority of their drone use is for pipeline monitoring and mapping, explaining that drones come in many different styles and sizes. He said the largest the company owns is comparable to a very small helicopter. The drones are equipped with very high resolution cameras that can zoom in to one-inch objects, and can be used to help in site locations, surveying, and even to help the assessor’s office. “The main thing we stress with the drone is, ‘safety,'” said Darrah.

To fly a drone, an operator must obtain a commercial operators certification. Other topics included in the presentation were the weight of the drones, speed and altitude, and air space. Darrah also touched on the best practices and applications of drone flying. He said it is becoming big in industry as technology continues to increase, and there is a demand for certified operators. Harker, a certified UAV pilot, had a multi-rotor UAV at the meeting and did a flying demonstration in the parking lot for those in attendance.

According to Darrah and Harker, the drones are also becoming very useful for search and rescue teams, and also for law enforcement. Part of the presentation allowed Darrah to show how the zoom lens on the cameras can bring objects in close to be recognized, which is very helpful in determining property lines, fences, well sites and pipelines, roadways, waterways.

Tom Cooper, director of the Tyler County Office of Emergency Management, said there are no-fly zones and very strict regulations on flying. He mentioned certain air space that is forbidden. He also noted it is a felony criminal offense to operate in a no-fly zone. Darrah agreed with Cooper, but said it is possible – in case of disasters or catastrophic events – to get clearance from the airports.

During regular business of the meeting Cooper discussed many different grants the LEPC is working on. He said the grant for the breathing air compressor was approved. After arrival, it will then be installed in one of their trailers. The 2018 Search and Rescue Training Grant has been finished, and Cooper is waiting on paperwork from the state to close it. Cooper said his office is checking on funding for the 2019 SAR Training Grant.

The 2016 EMPG reimbursement was requested and has been sent to the state, while the 2017 EMPG has been submitted. Also under grants, the sheriff’s office generator is still back-ordered, and ERB Electric reports it won’t be available until February, due to the demand caused by storms and hurricanes.

The grant for the county’s LED signs was approved, and the signs, when received, will be placed at entrances to Tyler County. The school is considering the purchase of a sign for A.I Boreman School, and also SES. The signs are ready to be ordered.