Drones helping to save lives in Harris County

HARRIS COUNTY, TX (KTRK) -- The Harris County Precinct 1 Constables Office is among the first in the county to use drones.

Many of their investigations have benefited from it. Now other agencies are looking to get their hands on them too.

It's no secret that interest in drones has taken off.

"I think people are keenly interested," says Houston Fire Department's George McAteer.

And now, a new frontier in drone use is on the horizon.

A viral video shows what a defibrillator drone can do in the not too distant future.

"It helps us put responders where they need to be," McAteer said.

HFD may soon get an eye in the sky.

"One person can operate the drone and give you much more information than you could. It would take you and an engine company walking a 360 on the building to give you that much information," McAteer said.

Last month, the department got a first look at a tethered drone system at Ellington Field by Intuitive Machines.

"This system essentially flies itself," said Intuitive Machine's Steve Altemus.

The drone has a cord that provides a constant charge so it can fly for hours.

The video can be seen via a smartphone, giving firefighters a view of every angle of a fire.

"I thought it was impressive," McAteer said. "It could offer a lot of situational awareness to our incident commanders."

Houston police are also looking at tethered drones to help with surveillance, vehicle accidents, traffic control and scene management.

Another big selling point now: officer safety.

"We have so many officers nowadays getting injured or ambushed, and having a birdseye view into what you're walking into, that's a big plus right there," said HPD's Randal Barton.

HFD and HPD still must get an approval from the FAA.

Their paperwork has already been submitted.

So much does it all cost?

A small drone can go for about $1,000. More advanced drone systems can run about $100,000.
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