By Tom Hintgen

Otter Tail County Correspondent

Drones have been is use by county officials since 2016.

Since that time drones have been used by the Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Office for search and rescue and drug enforcement. Drone usage has also proved to be successful for ditch inspections conducted by the county.

Grants for continuation of the drone program come periodically to Otter Tail County.

Such was the case on Jan. 12 when county board members were informed about a modest drone financial grant, announced by County Sheriff Barry Fitzgibbons. The donation of $100 came from Granite Electronics of St. Cloud, with funds to be used for additional drone batteries.

County officials, including county commissioners, say that drone technology saves money, time and resources. And when it comes to use of drones, county governmental officials and county residents alike need to follow drone regulations.

“Whether it’s drone usage by county government or drone usage by private citizens, safety should be the main consideration,” emphasizes Sheriff Fitzgibbons.

Otter Tail County governmental officials follow Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) drone rules and obtain a Certificate of Authorization (COA).

To fly a drone as a hobbyist, a private citizen is required to register his or her drone with the FAA and follow FAA special rules for model aircraft.

Across the state of Minnesota, drones have been a great benefit to first responders when it comes to natural disasters, detecting wildfires, assisting firefighters by surveying burning buildings and assisting during floods and risk assessments.

What is not done with the use of drones is snooping by law enforcement on private citizens.

The maximum allowable drone altitude is 400 feet above the ground.

Drones for real estate

The National Association of Realtors reports that real estate professionals all across the nation are using drones for aerial photography for properties.

The association does, however, strictly detail the rules and regulations that must be followed. Real estate agents are investing thousands of dollars into professional video production of drone-captured videos.

That said, a drone will never be able to shoot all of the photography and video needed to market a property. There still are certain kinds of photos and videos that a flying camera cannot do.