Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes
Keith McCord reporting It takes a lot of tools for law enforcement officers to do their jobs-- everything from computers to radios to guns.
The Utah Highway Patrol is now experimenting with something that no else in the country is using.
Sgt. Brad Marshall of the Utah Highway Patrol is not just fooling around with his remote-controlled helicopter.
He's figured out a way to make investigating accidents a bit easier and safer.
Sgt. Brad Marshall: "It's not the fix-all for everything, but when it's appropriate I think it can be very valuable."
For example, in reconstructing accidents.
A few weeks ago, a semi overturned and caught fire on the I-215 freeway.
Later, Sgt. Marshall documented the scene with his chopper that he rigged up with a camera and other equipment for about 5-thousand dollars.
Investigators use the photos to better determine the contributing factors to an accident-- such as how fast vehicles were traveling.
The digital camera is mounted on the underside of the helicopter. And by remote control the photos are taken, then transmitted to a receiver on the back of the officer's truck, and then can be recorded on a monitor.
To get elevated photos of a crash scene, the UHP usually uses a boom truck.. but it takes more time. And sometimes the road has to stay shut down longer to maneuver the truck. But the mini chopper is fast, and the accident investigation can wrap up sooner.
Brad Marshall: "I was up in the air, and I took over 20 photos which was more than enough, because I only need three pictures to reconstruct that... But I was up in the air and back on the ground in seven minutes."
Sgt. Marshall has been demonstrating his picture-taking-chopper to other law enforcement agencies in Utah. And, while this one is his own set up, Marshall's superiors want the UHP to have its own unit for use on a regular basis.
Brad Marshall: "The big thing is it's new to law enforcement. To my knowledge there's no law enforcement agencies operating these in the country."
Sgt. Marshall hopes the UHP will have a new remote controlled chopper of it's own flying over .
The highway patrol envisions many potential uses for remote controlled helicopters, including -- Getting an up close look at a hazardous materials scene; -- or hovering over a fire or hostage situation.