By Joe Morey
The Tribe recently used Enbridge funds to purchase a DJI Phantom 4 Advanced Falcon Edition drone from Drone World for the purpose of monitoring and inspecting the pipelines from an aerial view, but LCO Conservation Warden, Henry Bearheart, said the drone would be used for other purposes too.
“We will be using the drone, but not limited to, checking creeks for beaver dams, storm damage assessments, Search and Rescue operations, Law Enforcement operations,” Bearheart said.
LCO Secretary-Treasurer, Jason Weaver, added that the drone can be used for environmental assessments after storms and tornadoes to evaluate roads, forest and building damage without endangering anyone.
“We will use it to inspect the four water towers on an annual basis to look for paint and metal damage,” Weaver said. “These inspections typically cost the Tribe thousands of dollars or go undone.”
Bearheart said that he and another conservation warden, Aaron DeBrot, as well as Matt Riedell of LCO Emergency Management, went through a commercial drone pilot course put on by Dart Drones in Apple Valley, MN, which included Hands On Flight training and the FAA Part 107 Test Prep Course. He said the Tribe will continue to train and update our licensed pilots.
“Other tribal departments may request the drone for any useful purpose, but only trained personnel may fly the drone,” said Bearheart.
Weaver said the tribe will be creating a payment structure for outside entities to hire out our drone and an operator.
“Other tribes or county law enforcement and emergency management departments will often request air support but the weather may prohibit the use of helicopters, drones are very mobile and less than half the cost,” said Weaver.
Bearheart said Matt Riedell is in the process of filing for a Certificate Of Authorization for special use such as Flying Beyond Line Of Sight and Night Flying.
“We are in the process of purchasing FLIR to upgrade the camera system, which will enhance the Search and Rescue and storm damage assessment,” said Bearheart.
Drones have an ability to record from a Birdseye view without endangering the operator. Weaver said they can use the drone for operations that have always used helicopters or airplanes in the past.
“The Tribe has the ability to inspect our dams, bridges and infrastructure in a matter of minutes,” Weaver said. “If an elder or child goes missing our team will be on the spot with infrared heat cameras flying above to start trying to locate them before a helicopter could even get off the ground. As our Conservation staff does assessments on forest, wild rice or water an aerial view can assist in giving them a bigger picture into the infestation of invasive species or storm damage.”