Life-Saving Drones in Johnson County

In Johnson County, a specialized drone that carries a spotlight and a life-preserver is ready to fly in case of a water-rescue.

Right now, only one volunteer knows how to use it. But that could change soon.

Expert drone operator and instructor Garret Bryl is teaching about a dozen Burleson firefighters how to operate drones.

Bryl's drone cost more than $4,000, but the "training" drones that the firefighters are practicing on cost significantly less. The firefighters who want to be licensed drone operators must go through dozens of hours of practice time and classroom instruction in order to receive certification.

They practiced Friday morning in between rounds of severe weather, waiting to be called out for a high water rescue.

Bryl says drones can be an incredible tool for that purpose.

"It's a very high-tech way of doing something primitive," he said. "But we can do it with much more accuracy. Firefighters for ages have practiced throwing a rescue line or a preserver down a river or  across a creek to save someone, but it's an imperfect science. With this drone, I usually can drop a preserver within a few inches of where I want it to be."

Bryl said he used his drone throughout Johnson County four times during the May flooding to help save people trapped in high water.

He performed a live demonstration on NBC 5 by dropping a life-vest to a firefighter pretending to be trapped in a creek bed.

"This drone can deliver rescue lines, life preservers, we have spotlights on there. It's just a great tool of information for firefighters and police," Bryl said.

And with more rain in the forecast through the weekend, Bryl is ready to deploy his drone wherever it's needed.

"We're ready to go, whenever it happens, we're there," he said. "I'm ready to go."

Johnson County emergency managers said they're willing to send the drone to other counties if it is needed to save lives in this storm.

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