Texas DPS launches new drone program

Texas DPS is launching a new drone program, about eight years after scrapping its first effort due to challenges posed by federal restrictions and maintenance costs

AUSTIN — The Texas Department of Public Safety is launching a new drone program, about eight years after scrapping its first effort due to challenges posed by federal restrictions and maintenance costs.

Over the past few months, the department has quietly spent about $70,000 to purchase 17 drones, known formally as unmanned aerial systems.

The most expensive, an Aeryon SkyRanger equipped with a high-tech camera, cost $48,000 and can fly for up to 50 minutes, department purchase records show.

DPS officials weren’t available to discuss details Thursday, but DPS spokesman Tom Vinger said the SkyRanger, equipped with specialized software and an extended battery life, mostly will be used by the highway patrol for crash scene reconstruction.

The other new drones will aid in search and rescue, disaster support, aerial observation and crime scene photography, among other uses, a news release about the program said.

“The (drone) is an excellent tool to deploy when DPS aircraft are unavailable; if a mission is too dangerous for manned aircraft to be deployed; or when deemed more cost effective than conventional aircraft,” the release stated.

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