DORCHESTER COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – Dorchester County has a new tool to help search and rescue missions and improve their response to emergencies.

Leaders with Dorchester County Emergency Management recently acquired a new drone that comes with both zoom and thermal imaging capabilities.

“This new drone is a DGI Mavic 2 Enterprise Advance. How it differs from our previous drone is that it has the zoom capabilities and thermal imaging on board,” said Tristan Proctor, Deputy Director of Emergency Management. “So you can use a thermal image and a zoom that image at the same time- it’s not something we had in the past.”

Prior to the new drone, the county had one drone to zoom in for a closer look during things like searches for missing people, but a separate drone was needed to search for the heat coming from people during a search.

This new drone can now zoom in and detect images better with thermal technology.

“Instead of supplementing the old-fashioned grid search where you just get lots of boots on the ground, you can have an aerial platform overhead and we use that thermal imaging to look through the trees to pinpoint the body heat of an individual.”

Even before this latest drone arrived two weeks ago, they have been able to use drone technology to help even neighboring counties.

“Berkeley County responded to a structure fire at Century Aluminum a couple of months ago- they requested our drones to respond as well so we were able to help the incident commander kind of visualize where exactly the hotspots were.”

Dorchester Emergency Management, the sheriff’s office, the fire department, and public works now each have at least one drone. They are cross-training to be able to work together when needed.

The new drone cost about $8,500 and was paid for with part of a federal grant for emergency management.

“We appreciate the public support of this program and emergency management in general,” said Proctor.

County leaders say they plan to continue working together with different departments to try and improve their drone program into the future.