CUERO - With the sound of a buzzing beehive, the DeWitt County Sheriff's Office's newest drone levitated and flew out of sight Tuesday morning outside the DeWitt County Sheriff's Office.
In the official unveiling of the agency's new unmanned aerial vehicle program, Sheriff Carl Bowen demonstrated in what capacity the new program will serve.
"This program is designed to enhance law enforcement capabilities," Bowen said.
The agency began looking into drone programs about five years ago, he said.
"We live in a rural area. There's a lot of woods, there's bodies of water, there's a lot of terrain. And it's hazardous," Bowen said. "It's ideal to have 'eyes in the sky' that can look down and see what the officers are approaching."
The program finally became a reality this year through forfeited funds and donations from Devon Energy, Weaver & Jacobs Constructors and Partners Chevrolet Buick GMC. The new program cost about $30,000.
Bowen said he appreciates the contributions from the local businesses.
"One of our pillars for community engagement is supporting safe communities. We are thrilled to partner with the DeWitt County Sheriff's Office as they apply new technology to keep this county safe," said Becky Escott, a community relations supervisor for Devon Energy.
The program includes two drones with night vision; two Crystalsky monitors; controls; six batteries for each craft; a battery charger; and a trailer to house the drone materials. The trailer also doubles as a small, makeshift office for a deputy or officer. The trailer includes a desk area; maps of DeWitt County, Cuero, Yorktown and Nordheim; and a radio.
Bowen said program training began a couple of months ago. The agency have tested the drones in different weather conditions, such as 100 degree heat and in cold fronts, he said. The drones can fly up to 400 feet.
One of the drones, a DJI Matrice M100, was used in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey for the sheriff's office to assess flood damage, Bowen said. In addition to damage assessment, the drones would be used to locate missing persons and get an aerial view of accidents.
"They are extremely reliable and liability is everything," Bowen said.
The drones would be available to other DeWitt County agencies, such as police and fire departments, as well.
Cuero Fire Department Fire Chief Buddy Harwell said he was impressed with the drones. For the fire department, the drones would be useful in situations, such as search and rescue, to check the roof of a building on fire, and at vehicle accidents to fly above and check for injured people.
"It's a great tool to have in the toolbox," Harwell said. "You cut your risk and time way down with drones."
Day 1: Here comes Harvey
Day 2: Brace yourself
Day 3: 'Prayers protect us'
Day 4: 'We thought we were going to die'
Day 5: 'At least God let us live'
Day 6: 'It's the luck of the draw'
Day 7: 'Everybody will pull together'
Day 8: Guadalupe floods parts of Victoria
Day 9: Texas Zoo evacuates animals (w/video)
Day 10: The Long Road Ahead (w/video)
Day 11: Residents rely on families to rebuild
Day 12: For some, normal still far away
Day 13: Church offers refuge for devastated town
Day 14: Victims find hardship, opportunity (w/video)
Day 15: FEMA frustrates Harvey victims
Day 16: Displaced and in disarray
Day 17: Disaster for humans means catastrophe for pets
Day 18: Nature interrupted (w/video)
Day 19: 'It was like we had been bombed'
Day 20: Students returning to school feel weight of Harvey
Day 21: International Crane Foundation loses office after hurricane
Day 22: Ranching structures, cotton mostly damaged by Harvey
Day 23: Port Lavaca struggles back after Harvey
Day 24: Refugio: 'We're trying to get back to normal'
Day 25: Nonprofit leaves people lost after Harvey
Day 26: 'We are human beings like everyone else'
Day 27: Refugio schools find way to reopen
Day 28: Bloomington schools begin year in different classroom setups
Day 29: Methodist church serves those in need after hurricane
Day 30: Scientists measure damage to endangered species' habitat (w/video)
Day 31: Medical community feels impact of Harvey
Day 32: Harvey's speed leaves many in harm's way
Day 33: After Harvey, Seadrift couple forced out of home
Day 34: Bloomington Elementary School educates students in FEMA dome
Day 35: School districts share issues with state, US senator
Day 36: VISD students observe See You at the Pole
Day 37: Expectant family struggles after Harvey (w/video)
Day 38: Woodsboro pulls together after Harvey
Day 39: Housing options slim for displaced families
Day 40: SBA approves more than $500M in disaster loans
Day 41: Hunger greater in Crossroads post-Harvey
Day 42: 'Harvey broke me'
Day 44: Goliad baby born as hurricane swirled toward Crossroads
Day 45: Mother recalls 'scary' birth during Harvey
Day 46: Harvey devastates homeowners without insurance
Day 47: Officials have no details on housing relief
Day 48: Harvey impacts couple's 2 Victoria businesses, Rockport home
Day 49: Crews begin repair work on historic McFaddin church
Day 50: Hurricane, flood force Jaguars to make adjustments
Day 51: Texas Zoo thanks Vickers students for donation
Day 52: Seadrift women helping people affected by hurricane
Day 53: Mold creates big problem for homeowners
Day 54: Crossroads public agencies deal with FEMA challenges
Day 55: Special delivery
Day 56: Texas Gulf Coast mayors discuss Harvey aftermath
Day 57: Tenants sue after Harvey eviction
Day 58: Nonprofit directors face difficult fundraising decision after Harvey
Day 59: VISD applies for waivers to reduce Harvey burden
Day 60: Victoria's relief efforts lacked coordination, leadership
Day 61: Popular restaurant battles back from Harvey
Day 62: City looks to buy sprinkler controls for $160K
Day 63: Housing after Harvey (w/video)
Day 64: City looks to help with hefty water bills
Day 65: Men's shelter, soup kitchen closed because of Harvey
Day 66: Watt routes almost $1M to Crossroads' hungry
Day 67: Recovery group seeks members, community leaders
Day 68: Habitat volunteers help Harvey victims rebuild
Day 69: Lawmakers, counties to discuss Harvey response
Day 70: Oyster season opens after Harvey; new rules adopted
Day 71: Crossroads leaders talk storm damage to lawmakers
Day 72: Symphony to open concert season after Harvey delay
Day 73: Harvey recovery group works to measure unmet needs
Day 74: City considers ways to shore up water system
Day 75: County officials: Mobile homes need more oversight
Day 76: Recipient of state honor persists despite Harvey setbacks
Day 77: Heroes, lessons emerge in Harvey's wake
Day 78: Harvey, budget shortfalls challenge local leaders
Day 79: Salvation Army traditional holiday meal to continue
Day 80: City water had no bacteria despite Harvey outage
Day 81: Leaders still don't have Harvey recovery details
Day 82: Devereux officials remain hopeful despite hurricane damage
Day 83: Bloomington students, district still feel impact of Harvey
Day 84: Officials consider waiving school accountability ratings
Day 85: FEMA center in Cuero to close Nov. 22
Day 86: Zoo to spread its wings again
Day 87: Recovery group urges residents to apply for FEMA
Day 88: Rural Victoria County fights for help after Harvey
Day 89: Council to revisit rules on temporary housing
Day 90: Customers, employees respond to Lacks, Harbor Freight reopenings
Day 91: State officials remove sunken damage along Texas coast
Day 92: Refugio couple lose roof, but not hope
Day 93: Salvation Army Thanksgiving meal a success
Day 94: Home improvement stores prosper on Black Friday
Day 95: 'They are small, but their voices are loud'
Day 96: Harvey increases construction business, causes shortage of workers
Day 97: Tourists return to area ravaged by hurricane/a>
Where to get water, gas and other supplies
Helpful information after the storm
Updates on city services