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Wyoming drone fleet to help with investigations, inspections

April 9, 2021 GMT

JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) — The Wyoming Department of Transportation and Wyoming Highway Patrol have received $100,000 through a federal grant that will help launch a statewide program that would use drones to assist with investigations.

Wyoming Highway Patrol Lt. Erik Jorgensen secured grant funding and has been working with the transportation department and the University of Wyoming to put the drones in action, The Jackson Hole News & Guide reported Wednesday.

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“I am pretty excited about it,” Jorgensen said. “It’s another tool in the box to help us serve the public.”

Lt. Matt Brackin, the Highway Patrol’s first certified pilot, said there are endless options where drones can be used, including crash reconstruction, avalanche safety and bridge or other infrastructure inspections.

Brackin said drones can fly over crash scenes to take photos, allowing investigators to estimate speeds and directions. They could also be used to help in avalanche rescues to determine surface stability.

Sheri Taylor, a program manager under the department of transportation, said she formed a task force and hired a consultant to start the program and figure out operating procedures and best practices.

The grant money helped buy nine drones, which are with Highway Patrol districts statewide that are finishing up their certifications. Each mission flown by the agencies must be approved.

“We go through all these processes,” Taylor said. “For pre-flight plans we’re looking at possible obstacles, weather conditions, wind conditions, people, and even buildings nearby. There is a whole list of different things as a pilot ... you want to be sure you’re practicing the ultimate safety.”