Lebanon police count on drone technology to help find missing people, suspects

LEBANON, Ind. – Lebanon police now have a new outlook on community safety.

“You can see everything when you get up 150 feet, compared to walking around a cornfield where you can only see an overhead view. It is a completely different type of search and only takes a few minutes, instead of hours,” said Lebanon Police Sgt. Aaron Altier.

The 38-officer department is improving efficiency and search techniques with the click of a button, using drone technology. Lebanon police bought the drone specifically to help find lost kids or endangered adults around Boone County.

“We have had instances where we have had kids lost in corn fields and bean fields,” said Lebanon Police Chief Tyson Warmoth.

Just months ago, two girls went missing in Thorntown. They were found safe within a few hours, but Lebanon police say their drone would have helped solve the case in minutes.

“A drone can take the place of many officers. Instead of looking for them on foot we can send a drone up and find the person very quickly,” said Chief Warmoth.

Last year, officers used the drone to search for two armed suspects who stabbed a woman in the neck behind a fast-food restaurant. The technology allowed them to survey the area while staying out of the line of danger.

“Just the idea of officer safety, we would be able to come in on the suspect from all angles and see what he is doing at all times. The drone can help to monitor the suspect and we can radio the information to officers on the ground,” said Chief Warmoth.

Right now, two Lebanon officers are trained to fly the drone.

“If we see something of interest, we bring the drone down to a lower altitude and focus on the persons face and find out if that is the person we are looking for,” said Chief Warmoth.

Other officers also have plans to get involved in training, preparing themselves to fly in when someone is in danger.

“You find one missing kid and it is worth its weight in gold,” said Sgt. Altier.