Butler County sheriff gets underwater drone for searching, evidence recovery

The underwater drone, donated to the department by Watson Gravel Inc. in Hamilton, can dive to 330 feet and is equipped with 2,000 lights that provide three to ten foot visibility during most conditions

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The underwater drone, donated to the department by Watson Gravel Inc. in Hamilton, can dive to 330 feet and is equipped with 2,000 lights that provide three to ten foot visibility during most conditions

The Butler County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Response Services Team is training with new underwater drone that will speed up recovery and search operations.

The bright yellow drone, donated to the department by Watson Gravel Inc. in Hamilton, can dive to 330 feet and is equipped with 2,000 lights that provide up to 10 feet of visibility during most conditions.

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The underwater drone can be used in pools, lakes and rivers. It can measure temperatures and depths and is equipped with a compass that can provide coordinates for rescue divers.

The drone has an arm that can retrieve or rescue victims in water, which could save lives or make recovery time shorter, officials said.

Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones said the drone will be valuable in recovering evidence from the water and checking to see if people are trapped in a submerged vehicle.

“We were in West Chester over the weekend for a car that went into the water. … They thought he said he was the only one in the car, but they weren’t sure. In a situation like that, it can be used quickly,” Jones said.

The rescue team currently uses sonar, but it is limited, he said.

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Maj. Mike Craft said that “with sonar, the deeper you get the more distorted the image gets. Some of the parts of the Great Miami River are massively deep. This is a tool you can send down there without sending a dive team and jeopardizing their lives when it might not be what you are looking for. The equipment can light it up and take a real good image.”

The sheriff’s office is the only agency in southwest Ohio to have this piece of equipment, and it will be used to assist other agencies.

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