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Drone gives Jefferson County officials an eye in the sky

DRONE DONATION — Ascent Resources-Utica donated $5,500 to Jefferson County’s special response team, which is part of the sheriff’s department, to purchase a drone. Among those on hand for the presentation were, from left, Joe Steele and Rich Weber, Ascent Resources safety workers; sheriff’s Sgt. Ed Pfouts, who heads up the special response team; Amanda Finn, Ascent Resources director of government relations; Terry Bell, township trustees association president; Greg McCutcheon, Ascent Resources security coordinator; and sheriff’s Deputy Tyler Yoho. -- Mark Law

STEUBENVILLE — Jefferson County’s special response team that operates out of the sheriff’s department now has a drone that can be used in tactical situations and in the search for missing persons.

Ascent Resources-Utica donated $5,500 to the special response team and the sheriff’s department to purchase the drone and related equipment.

Sheriff’s Sgt. Ed Pfouts, who heads up the special response team, said the drone has infrared technology, which can track a person who runs from a crime scene or a person who has gone missing.

“The heat signature from people will be picked up and the person found much quicker than team members going out and looking on foot,” he said.

Pfouts said the drone also can be used inside buildings, such as schools with an active shooter.

“We will be able to clear hallways quicker and keep team members safer,” he said.

Pfouts said the drone will be available to other police agencies in looking for a missing person.

The donation includes the training of two drone pilots and a TV monitor to watch what the drone is seeing.

“The oil and gas industry deploys the latest technology in our operations and drones are becoming more and more useful in both drilling and pipeline operations,” said Mike Chadsey, spokesman for the Ohio Oil & Gas Association. “Thanks to Ascent Resources for being a good partner by recognizing a need and then stepping up to meet the need in their community.

Chadsey said the oil and gas industry knows the benefit of the best allocation of resources. He said the sheriff’s department can use the drone to look for a missing person instead of having to send out numerous deputies.

“We enjoy the ongoing and strong relationships we have built with various law enforcement agencies in our operating area and we are happy to provide Sheriff (Fred) Abdalla and his special response team with this donation,” said Amanda Firm, director of government relations for Ascent Resources.

Finn said the company routinely makes donations to fire and emergency medical departments and for law enforcement.

Sheriff’s Deputy Tyler Yoho said the drone can broadcast images from as far away as six miles. There is a 27-minute battery life. He said the Ascent Resources donation allowed for the purchase of three batteries.

Pfouts said the drone can show the GPS coordinates of where it is searching.

Yoho said there are plans to have four licensed pilots, one for each shift. He said a licensed pilot can be dispatched at put up the drone to determine the situation before deputies arrive on scene.

Pfouts said the drone has bumpers on its propellers to protect it in flying close to or inside building. He said the drone can be flown up against a window to see what is going on inside a building, especially in a hostage situation. Pfouts said the drone can determine where inside the building the hostage taker is located.

The drone also has the ability to record a message which can be played to a hostage taker on the demands of the special response team, Pfouts said.

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