PICKENS COUNTY, SC (WSPA) - A new idea is taking off in Pickens County.
Sheriff Rick Clark told 7News on Tuesday that about one month ago he used his own money to buy a drone for the department.
Initially, he said, it will be used for search and rescue missions.
"If we can be on scene in 15 minutes and have a camera up in the air searching, it's a tremendous difference in saving lives," said Sheriff Clark.
He explained the goal is to use drones in place of the department's helicopter, which currently is out of service and costs nearly $5,000 a year to maintain.
With each drone costing about $3,500, the sheriff said using a small fleet of drones in the long run would be cheaper and would allow eyes to get up in the air, faster.
For Pickens County which includes a mountainous terrain, the drones could be an asset for when people go missing.
"It gives us a lot of ability to cover ground fast," the Sheriff said.
The drone records in high definition but also lets deputies switch to infrared.
The more heat it detects, the more intense the colors become.
"Somebody's body heat is really going to stick out while we're searching,"
As of Tuesday afternoon the Pickens County Sheriff Department only had one drone.
The plan, however, is to train three deputies to fly them over the next year or so.
Sheriff Clark said he is optimistic that other departments will follow suit and start a coalition of drones in South Carolina.
"It becomes endless, how great it can be to an agency."