HAYS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — A few days ago, the San Marcos Police Department said it was able to locate a suspect in a stolen vehicle pursuit by using a drone.

“In the stolen vehicle case, the drone was able to track and keep watch of the suspects while directing officers on the ground to the suspects.  With the constant “eyes on” ability of the drone, pilots are able to give real-time situational awareness to officers on foot keeping them safer.”

The San Marcos Police Department

It’s not the only law enforcement agency in the county using that technology to help in a variety of scenarios.

“The quicker we can get one up, the quicker we can resolve the issue,” said Hays County Sheriff’s Office Patrol Sergeant Kelly Woodard.

According to the sheriff’s office, since 2021 they’ve flown their drones 2,100 times.

What are the drones used for?

Patrol Sgt. Woodard said they’ve responded to a variety of different situations.

“It’s missing persons, children or elderly, especially with the heat right now. Tactical event, SWAT, stuff like that,” Woodard said. “Motor vehicle accidents that happened at night, where we don’t have a victim, maybe motorcycles.”

Specifically in the summer, Woodard said deploying a drone in a search for a missing person is a safer and more efficient option.

Hays County Sheriff's Office Drone
The sheriff’s office said the hotter the day is, the easier it is to spot people at night using drone technology. (Photo: KXAN)

“You don’t have your searchers falling out from the heat as well. You know, we’re under a tarp,” he said. “We’re flying a drone. You cover more ground a lot quicker.”

Where can the drone fly?

Woodard said the sheriff’s office is allowed to fly over people and fly at night. However, there are still rules they have to follow in certain situations.

“If we’re searching for something that’s in private property, we’re going to apply for a search warrant,” he said. “We’re just not going to fly over somebody’s house.”

Woodard said the sheriff’s office has a drone pilot on every shift with about 10 to 15 drones for the team.