Cowlitz Co. Sheriff’s Office takes to the sky with latest crime- - KPTV - FOX 12

Cowlitz Co. Sheriff’s Office takes to the sky with latest crime-fighting tool

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COWLITZ COUNTY, WA (KPTV) -

Investigators with the Cowlitz County Sheriff's Office have a new tool in their fight against crime with the deployment of the agency's first drone.

The drone, which is piloted by Sgt. Corey Huffine, provides crime scene investigators with an "eye-in-the-sky" viewpoint, with the ability to take still photos and video from a vantage point that, to date, had been unavailable.

Huffine said that there are some restrictions to using the drone and that he must be careful as the operator.

“You can't fly over 400 feet. You can't fly at night without authorization,” he explained.

Huffine had to take 16 hours of courses to learn specific FAA regulations, as well as earn his remote pilot’s license.

Sheriff Mark Nelson said he saw other departments around the country begin to implement drones, and decided Cowlitz County could benefit from its own.

"There are lots of times when having an overhead view is a huge benefit,” he said. “It gives a different perspective.”

Nelson said his agency has deployed the drone just once so far, to help with a murder investigation. 

In the future, the drone will also be used to assist with search and rescue operations, operating not only as a visual tool but also with the ability to transport items weighing less than two pounds across treacherous terrain or bodies of water.

"If you have somebody stranded somewhere, you can't get to them, but maybe you could get communications, you could get water, or maybe you could get some medical supplies to them," Nelson explained.

The drone will also be used to take photos and video of crime scenes that can be presented as evidence in criminal cases, Nelson said.

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