Brandon, Miss. — At the Rankin County Sheriff’s Office in downtown Brandon, Investigator Raymond Duke demonstrated how to operate an unmanned aircraft or drone. The one Duke used Thursday is his personal drone, but the Sheriff’s office also has one. Once it’s registered with the Federal Aviation Administration it will be in the air too. Duke says, “Our intent and use for it is more for search and rescue. The sheriff is adamant that we not use it to go search for marijuana fields and those kinds of things. We’re strictly using it for search and search and recovery. If we got a missing child or someone that’s fled from us on the interstate.”

But Duke says there’s been some confusion over how and where you can use drones. There have even been some social media threats to shoot down drones seen flying in Rankin County. The law says no one can violate your privacy by filming inside your home, but the airspace above your property is fair game. According to Duke, “You don’t have the right to shoot it down. In fact, if you discharge a weapon in the county, in a platted subdivision, you’re violating the law by doing that.”

If you own a drone and use it as a hobbyist, you don’t have to register with the FAA. If you use it for commercial use, you do. But there are some guidelines for hobbyists. According to the FAA, you shouldn’t fly the drone higher than 400 feet and not within 5 miles of an airport.

But the drone is just one part of the new tech in the county. The 2 newest additions to the department are robots. They’re designed to enter homes during hostage situations and other dangerous settings. The robots have video and audio capabilities. One of them even has an arm that can grip and pull. It can open a door or be armed with a charge to blow a door open. Deputies are still training with the robots, but they’ll be in use soon.

The Sheriff’s office paid about $30,000 for one of the robots. The Rankin County Board of Supervisors paid about $50,000 for the second robot.

You can find more FAA requirements and guidelines here: https://www.faa.gov/uas/