During its 2020 regular legislative session, the Minnesota legislature created Minnesota state statute 626.19. This statute requires the Renville County Board of Commissioners to provide an opportunity for public comment prior to the Renville County Sheriff’s Department purchasing or using an unmanned aerial system (UAS), otherwise known as a drone.

In 2017, the Renville County Sheriff’s Department began to assemble a UAS program.

As one of the first outstate law enforcement agencies in Minnesota to use drone technology, the department acquired two drones, one primarily for training and the other for operations, which included an infrared, thermal imaging camera, which is useful for locating living people or animals via heat signatures.

Following the acquisition of the drones, the sheriff’s department applied for and received a certificate of authorization from the FAA, which exempts the department from certain regulations during emergencies.

Office policies were developed and implemented, staff was trained and the drones began being deployed for actual emergencies.

Since that time, several missions have been successfully completed, both within Renville County and while assisting neighboring counties during emergencies.

Deployments to date have included searches for lost, missing or otherwise endangered persons, searches for fugitives and wanted persons, assisting with locating missing livestock, documenting damage following severe weather events and various public displays and demonstrations.

The department’s policy on drone operations can be found in the “notices” section of its Web site at www.renvillecountymn.com/sheriff/. 

To satisfy the newly-enacted law, the Renville County Board of Commissioners will accept public comments about the Renville County Sheriff’s Department acquisition and/or use of unmanned aerial systems.

In-person comments can be made at 10 a.m. Nov. 24, 2020 at the meeting of the Renville County Board of Commissioners. The meeting will be held in Suite 313 at the Renville County Government Services Center in Olivia.

Additionally, the Renville County Sheriff’s Department will also receive public comments, both electronically and via US Mail, until 9 a.m. Nov. 24, 2020.

E-mailed comments can be sent to: SheriffRecords@renvillecounty-mn.com. Mailed comments may be sent to: Renville County Sheriff’s Department ATTN: UAS Public Comments, 105 5th Street S., Suite 210 Olivia, MN, 56277. Questions can be directed to Sheriff Scott Hable at: (320) 523-3771 or ScottH@renvillecountymn.com/.

- Image courtesy of the Internet Public Domain