SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - The Smith County Sheriff's Office is adopting a new tool that will literally take their investigations to new heights. The office has purchased two drones.
"It will help us have a more complete investigation process," said Sheriff Larry Smith.
The department first used a drone in a homicide case last year. A deputy brought in his own to help locate a piece of evidence in a wooded area.
"That personal drone was put up and I think within 15 minutes we had located the vehicle. It was critical for us to recover that vehicle. The vehicle we also learned had been used to discard the body," Smith said.
Sheriff Smith said what the pilot sees on the drone's screen, deputies in the field can see on their cell phones. A test video shows the department will have day and night time capabilities.
"The body would give off a certain heat signature as compared to vegetation around that person. We're able to see from the air and cover a lot of area, once we get out to a location where we might have somebody jump out and run from a deputy," Smith said.
Smith said time plays a major role in any investigation. Anytime they need eyes from the sky, they have to wait for the DPS helicopter that is based in Dallas.
"Usually an hour or more to get here, so that person has a lot of time to make a lot of distance from us," Smith said.
Smith said six deputies are being trained to use the drones. They will be put to use once the department has the proper licenses and waivers from the FAA.
Smith said the drones won't just help criminal cases; they could also be used if there is a lost child or a missing elderly person.
The department received funding from a private donor to purchase the drones.