The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) has been gifted a drone to enhance its work in hard-to-access areas during natural disasters and search-and-rescue operations.
The new drone, a DJI Inspire 2, was donated through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation’s Gear Up for Game Wardens program, which has generated over $100,000 in private donations thus far to fund purchases of specialized equipment for state game wardens, according to TPWD.
“It will definitely be deployed during disaster events and search operations,” comments Game Warden Pilot Lt. Brandon Rose. “We’re limited from using our helicopter and airplane if weather is bad. With this drone, we may be able to search for missing persons in situations where we can’t use the manned aircraft. During those down times, this craft could be the difference-maker in getting help and saving lives.”
The new game warden unmanned aircraft system (UAS) can attain a maximum speed of 58 mph and can go from 0 to 50 in five seconds with a range of about 4 miles, notes TPWD. The unit’s camera payload allows for real-time broadcast, which can provide a live HD video feed to a TV screen or monitor. This feature can give rescuers and command staff a live view, enabling them to make immediate and appropriate decisions that save lives, says TPWD.
The UAS has a distinctive custom paint job and vinyl wrap similar to that on the Texas game warden helicopter. It is also easily identifiable by markings reading, “Game Warden Search and Rescue.”
“This much-anticipated piece of equipment comes in the wake of the Wimberly floods and after wardens affected 12,000 rescues and evacuations during Hurricane Harvey,” says Waco-based Game Warden Capt. Jason Campbell. “Many of the rescues in both of these events were highly technical and presented an above-average danger to the victims and wardens involved. The UAS will equip our warden first responders with the ability to identify dangers such as swift water, downed powerlines and hazardous materials. Identifying these threats allows for greater safety of victims, as well as wardens.”
Campbell adds, “The UAS will enhance our ability to quickly locate and guide rescuers to victim locations, and we also see the potential of the UAS as a training tool, as well as helping with reconstructing boat accident scenes.”
The UAS will be based out of Texas Game Warden Region 7 in Temple, but it will be available for deployment statewide, notes TPWD. Wardens are hoping to obtain additional unmanned aircraft armed with thermal imaging systems for deployment throughout their eight law enforcement regions.