Indiana Game Wardens Receive Unmanned Aircrafts to Aid Rescues

Indiana conservation officers with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division have recently received new equipment to speed up the time of the search and rescue missions they conduct along Lake Michigan, amongst other places.

As of now, Districts 2 and 4 have received these new Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems, with District 10 to be following shortly, according to aid Capt. William Browne, with the law enforcement division.

“We’re going to be able to see something and get right out to it,” said Terri Millefoglie, public information officer for District 10, which includes Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Jasper, Newton, Starke and Pulaski counties.

But, Browne insists that the aircrafts aren’t referred to as drones.

“That is what we consider to be the novice attitude,” he said. “The dream is, this is much more sophisticated equipment.”

The Federal Aviation Administration granted Indiana game wardens the permission to purchase the equipment, the first law enforcement agency in any state to have such access. Each SUAS cost roughly $3,500.

“It’s our professional approach to using this device that gives it this professional title,” Browne said. “It is not to be used for any type of surveillance. It is to be used for search and rescue.”

The aircrafts will be used to provide law enforcement officials with real-time video that they can view from the ground, raising their efforts beyond visual obstacles.

The game wardens believe that the SUAS will be able to assist them in a variety of scenarios that may arise when they are patrolling Indiana Dunes State Park.

Millefoglie stated that the SUAS will be particularly useful given the shelf ice that accumulates along the lakefront in the winter. The ice can stack up to 10 feet high, cutting off views from the ground.

“It’s basically going to rule out that someone is on that shelf ice,” Millefoglie said.

Terri also said the SUAS will come in handy when there is flooding that is too dangerous for conservation officers to enter; they can “fly down and see nobody is upstream.”

“It’s going to give us a bird’s-eye view and we will be able to respond quicker,” she said.

The SUAS will be tested and branched out to other districts if the aircrafts prove significantly helpful to officials.