The Township of Sewickley Emergency Management Agency is taking its resources to the skies with a drone recently purchased for $34,000.
Director Glenn Wees said the device will help the agency assess emergencies, such as search and rescue operations, from the air.
“Once we build the team, we’ll be ready to go with them anywhere in the county,” he said.
The agency appears to be the first of its kind in Westmoreland County to have a drone, according to Cassandra Kovatch, public information officer for the county’s Department of Public Safety. Murrysville Police, North Huntingdon EMS and the County’s Rough Terrain Team all have drone capabilities, she said.
Wees is working on building a team of 22 people to help work with the agency’s drone, which has a thermal camera and searchlight. The agency is working with Keystone Clippers Radio Control Club for the practice space. In exchange, club members are allowed to use the agency building for their meetings.
Two people are in the process of being certified as drone pilots.
Wees anticipates the device will help during emergency incidents across the diverse makeup of the township’s land, from large wooded areas and farms to small towns such as Herminie, Rillton and Lowber.
It could range from a lost person to a flood, he said.
“That way we can get in, fly over, do a damage assessment” and get the information to officials faster, he said.
Wees expects the drone – which has the capacity to carry 12 pounds – to be available later this year. It is the largest project the agency has undertaken, he said.
“We knew it was going to take time,” he said.