Bargersville Fire Department drone catches man suspected of stealing car

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - A central Indiana fire department is doing more than putting out flames, they're fighting crime too.

The Bargersville Fire Department teamed up with police to help catch a man accused of taking off in a stolen car through Johnson county.

Bargersville Community Fire division chief Eric Funkhouser has gotten comfortable with the departments drone.

Over the past year and a half he's been called on by multiple departments to use this technology.  Just last week crews in Trafalgar called to say they needed help tracking down a man in a stolen car.

"What ended up happening was that the vehicle ended up going off the road, across the road and then out into a cornfield," Funkhouser said.

With corn standing taller than the officers, that's where this drone came in handy as an eye in the sky. It shows a yellow dot to indicate thermal imaging is picking up the suspect's movement. That happens when the drone's heat signature changes.

"Once we had the movement you can tell the difference at that point if it's a human walking with that heat signature and it took off running. I mean we could honestly see it and I think he knew the drone was up there," Funkhouser said.

As the suspect ran further and faster, the K9 officers lost his scent. But, the drone was still hot on his heels even when he tried to lay low and crawl.

"As I was looking across one of the fields I think he just happened to peek out the edge of the cornfield and I picked up that heat signature. So I flew the drone over the area and was able to get over top of him," Funkhouser said.

All the while his location was being relayed to officers on the ground. They cornered him and in the end he emerged from the cornfield with his hands up.

"We kept them from having to go into a dangerous situation you know because of the technology that we're able to use," Funkhouser said.

Chief Funkhouser says he gets calls about 3 to 5 times a month to use the drone in a variety of scenarios.