Holmes EMA flying high after purchasing new drone

Holmes EMA flying high after purchasing new drone
Dave Mast

Jason Troyer, Holmes County EMA director, explains the capabilities of the department’s newly purchased drone to Holmes County commissioners Dave Hall, left, Joe Miller and others in a recent meeting.


The Holmes County Emergency Management Agency always has an eye on approaching disasters and dealing with catastrophes, but with its newest purchase, it will now have an eye in the sky that will enable its team to view events from up high.

Holmes EMA Director Jason Troyer recently introduced the newest EMA team member, a drone that will provide assistance for many endeavors.

“This is a new technology that EMAs are using statewide,” Troyer said. “EMAs are embracing this technology because it can keep us out of the danger zone when exploring different types of disasters.”

Troyer said there are several steps that need to happen before the EMA drone becomes fully operational.

First, the persons operating the drone must become fully certified by the FAA to operate the drone. Troyer already has his certification, but Assistant Director Jordan Tschiegg is currently working on receiving his certification.

The drone also must be added to the EMA insurance policy, and Troyer said he is working with Misty Burns, Holmes County director of human resources, to create a user policy on what incidences at which the drone can be used.

“We will be able to use the drone for all damage assessment incidents, but we will also be able to use it for special events and even special events planning,” Troyer said.

He said for larger events they can utilize the drone to create ingress and egress routes leading into and out of larger events.

In addition, EMA will make the drone available for any mutual aid calls with county fire departments if they need assistance.

“It does have thermal imaging in it, so we can assist with search and rescue,” Troyer said. “The only stipulation is that one of our pilots, either Jordan or myself, would have to be with the drone at all times for safety and insurance purposes.”

In addition, Troyer said they will make it available to any other county departments who might need it for assistance.

Troyer said the drone has a maximum speed of 50 mph with a nine-mile capability, but the FAA has a regulation that the drone must remain within the operator’s line of sight.

The drone can go up to 400 feet above ground level, the one exception being a tower, in which case it could go 400 feet above the tower.

“Most of Holmes County would have no restrictions on where we could fly it,” Troyer said. “We would have to be careful with flying it near the airport.”

The drone has about a half-hour of fly time in its batteries, but Troyer said they have four packs and could fly for two hours if needed.

The drone comes with a TV monitor, allowing first responders in a situation viewing exactly what the drone is seeing from high above them.

It contains three different lenses including regular, wide-angle and thermal.

The drone will be used for search and rescue and can explore high-water areas that will allow departments to explore surrounding areas without endangering personnel.

The drone is valued at $13,200 and was paid for by the EMA’s general fund.

“It’s going to be a great asset to the county,” Troyer said.

Commissioner Dave Hall said the opportunity to team with county departments and other emergency response teams will be advantageous to the county.

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