Insurance expense grounds county plans for drone


County officials know that a drone might be handy for law enforcement and emergency management, but they need to figure out how to pay for the insurance while sharing the drone with Flandreau and area fire departments.

Sheriff Troy Wellman told the Moody County Commission at its Oct. 3 meeting that he knew of three recent cases where a drone would have been helpful in tracking a suspect or determining if the suspect was armed.

“There’s three times it would have saved a lot of hassle,” Wellman said, noting that a drone would cut down on the manpower needed during a search as well as help avoid injury claims as first responders tromp through fields or tree groves.

Emergency management director Terry Albers has been researching prices of drones.

“The cost on these is rather high,” Albers said.

The drone itself costs $2,000. The big expense is the thermal imaging and night vision which can cost in excess of $13,000.

No matter how many entities use the drone, Albers said, “Somebody’s got to be in charge. Somebody’s got to cover it with insurance.”

Albers said he was surprised by the cost of insurance at $1,800 per year.

County commission assistant Marty Skroch has been researching drone insurance plans and found that a county policy would only cover county use of the drone. A fire department or police department that wanted to use the drone would be required to have its own insurance policy.

According to Albers, new drone technology has insurance companies stumped about how much to charge for premiums.

“They don’t have enough knowledge about them,” Albers said. “It’s just too new.”

If the county gets a drone, Wellman explained that flying one is a two-person job with one to fly the drone and one to monitor the images from the camera.

Commissioners said it was worth the effort to continue to research drones, insurance costs and ways for other entities to use the drone.

In other action the commission…

…authorized the signing and certification of a five-year highway bridge improvement plan.

…authorized sending to the S.D. Department of Revenue $145 in unclaimed checks.

…authorized a $15.81 hourly wage for medic Taylor White.


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