Horry County police to use drones during beach rescue calls

The Horry County Police Department just bought two new drones to use for beach patrol. (Image Source: News13's Taylor Herlong)

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – The Horry County Police Department hopes two new drones will help with beach rescues this summer.

The department just bought two new drones to use for beach patrol, but officers can’t use them yet because of stalled paperwork that has to travel through the Federal Aviation Administration.

Officers hope the drones will act as their eyes in the sky, and Captain Jason Freer says these new tools have the potential to save lives.

“We often have officers that are called to the beach for debris or something, or an object out in the ocean that are asking officers to go check on it,” says Freer. “It might be a person or something to that effect.”

Currently, when officers are called to any type of beach rescue or assistance, they must either swim to the object or bring out the jet skis to travel to the situation. The drones will give officers a firsthand look at what they’re dealing with before officers are even out in the water.

“If it is a person, we can hurry up and deploy officers and go out swimming, our jet skis, kayaks or whatever to go out and help these individuals. If it is debris, then we saved all that resource and manpower,” explains Freer.

Freer says the department used extra money left in the beach patrol budget to buy the two drones at $1,400 each. A small price to pay for the potential power the tools can offer the men and women on the force.

The department received the drones about two months ago, but they’re still waiting on paperwork from the FAA to be able to use them.

“It’s basically filling out forms and showing that we are a police department,” explains Freer. “That does take a little bit of time. It’s easy to fill out, but the process takes a little while to do.”

Freer says his officers are training on how to use the drones now and just met with FAA officials in Charleston with the hopes of speeding up that process, so the drones can watch over the public as soon as possible.

“We are hoping to be up and ready to go this summer,” predicts Freer. “One of the things we have to do is do a training process and do a policy for the Horry County Police Department so our officers know the limitations of what we can and can’t do.”

Freer says the two drones they bought are nice starter drones, but they already hope to expand. Next, they’d like to get what’s called a FLIR drone with a thermal camera that can detect body heat. FLIR drones would be ideal for ocean rescues, but also key in locating people in the woods.