Several members of the Marquette County Sheriff’s Office Drone Team are pictured here, including: Technical Flight Officer Deputy Jeremy Kreuger, Pilot Deputy Rebecca Wulf, Pilot Deputy Geoffrey Gardner, Pilot Sergeant Jeremy Breiwa, and Supervisor of Operations Pilot Captain Les Crandall. Not pictured are Pilot Deputy Brock Holmes and Technical Flight Officer Deputy Amanda Zuehls-Kuchar.
A new tool to aid in many law enforcement and other emergency situations was introduced recently by the Marquette County Sheriff’s Office. A new drone, equipped with both thermal and color cameras, will be in use by a newly formed and trained drone team of officers.
Sheriff Joe Konrath held a ceremony last week to introduce and demonstrate the drone while thanking several businesses and organizations that have donated toward its cost.
The sheriff’s office became interested in this high-tech equipment last September after working with the Green Lake County Drone Team in a search and rescue operation to find 90-year-old Lucille Schultz. Thanks to their drone and team, Schultz was found in a corn field.
“We were so inspired by the Green Lake County Sheriff’s Office Drone Team that afterwards, my command staff and I decided to work on developing our own Drone Team,” Konrath said.
Marquette County’s staff came up with a $30,000 tally for the equipment they wanted, and donations were not far behind.
So far, they have collected $21,500 in donations and grants, including: $10,000 from the Brakebush Family Foundation; $6,500 donated by the Marquette-Adams Telephone Cooperative; and $5,000 from the Adams-Columbia Electric Cooperative “Operation Round-Up” program. Konrath remains hopeful that another pending grant application will come through with additional funds.
Additionally, Marquette County Crime Stoppers is allowing the team to use its trailer to store equipment, take on calls, and for training purposes when not used by Crime Stoppers for a few events a year.
The Sheriff’s Office has purchased a DJI Matrice 210 drone, along with a FLIR thermal camera and a Zenmuse Z30 camera that features a 30x optical zoom. In a demonstration, the pilot and camera operator were able to zoom in on a vehicle’s license plate from 275 feet in the air.
The office formed a Drone Team to train with the new equipment and also obtain the required Part-107 FAA pilot licenses to operate it. Konrath was pleased to report that all six passed that difficult test on their first try.
Team members include:
Supervisor of Operations Pilot Captain Les Crandall
Pilot Sergeant Jeremy Breiwa
Pilot Deputy Geoffrey Gardner
Pilot Deputy Rebecca Wulf
Pilot Deputy Brock Holmes
Technical Flight Officer Deputy Jeremy Kreuger
Technical Flight Officer Deputy Amanda Zuehls-Kuchar
They have also obtained a night waiver to fly in Marquette, Green Lake and Waushara counties.
The drone has been busy with several training sessions, both during the day and at night at several sites around the county. Marquette County’s K-9 units have been part of these trainings as well. But also, the drone also has already been called into action on three actual emergency calls during June, including one event in which they had to locate a woman who was found in a remote marshy/pond area.
Besides missing persons cases, Konrath said the drone can also be used in many other situations, including:
• To assist Emergency Government for natural disasters, flood monitoring and community event monitoring.
• In fire situations, using the FLIR thermal camera for fire structure damage, structure safety, wildland fires, and assisting Fire Command in locating hidden “hot spots” that the firefighters cannot find.
• For evidence gathering, getting scene photography at vehicle crashes or criminal investigations.
• Observation for K-9 tracking.
• For county geographic information system (GIS) work.
Down the line, Konrath said he would like to hold demonstrations of the drone for the public, similar to the K-9 demos that are conducted at many area events throughout the year.