Harrison County rescue crews take a deep dive with underwater drones

Published: Jul. 9, 2021 at 12:37 PM CDT
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - They swim, they send back video, and they can also save lives.

The Harrison County Fire Department is using technology to help with underwater search, rescue and recovery efforts with the use of two remote-operating vehicles. The submersible drone and its smaller colleague have been on duty for about a year.

“These are just like a drone you fly in the air,” explained Harrison County Fire Chief Pat Sullivan. “These are made to go underwater. They have cameras on them. The reason that we have these is primarily for search and rescue. If it’s a rescue, then absolutely, we can run it out, grab somebody or bring it back in.”

The smaller one can get into tight areas, while the larger one can go 12 knots underwater and has a range of 1,000 feet in multiple directions.

“The other thing we can use these for - and have used them - is for inspections under the bridges, pilings,” said Sullivan. “And if there’s something we need to look at and it may not be appropriate to put a diver in - let’s say, contaminated water and a leak in the pipeline - and we worry about diver’s safety.”

Whether they are pushing through debris in the river or looking for survivors after an offshore crash, the underwater drones are just additional tools to ensure safety and efficiency for first responders.

“This is all about doing the job and not putting people at risk, but accomplishing the mission,” added Sullivan.

The Harrison County Fire Department is one of the few in South Mississippi with this type of equipment, said the chief.

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