August 16, 2022 |

After a grant through the Wyoming homeland security office to help purchase two specialized drones for use in Carbon County fell through, H.F. Sinclair stepped into to underwrite the entire cost.

The local refinery will pay $14,895 for the package that includes two advanced urban fleet drones and the FAA training to pilot them. Lenny Laymen with Carbon County Emergency Management said he has been working with Encampment Police Chief Kevin Shue to secure drones for police as well as search and rescue work since last fall.

Pictured from left to right are Councilman Stull, Chief Shue; Councilwoman Fagan-Craig; Ryan Wells of H.F. Sinclair; Mayor Salisbury; Lenny Layman, Carbon County Emergency Manager; Sue Jones, Carbon County Commissioner and Councilman Banach. Photo courtesy Town of Encampment/Facebook.

Carbon County Commissioners had supported the acquisition of drones and included the money for the county’s portion of the match in this year’s budget. Chief Shue had documented the need for drones. Local law enforcement’s inability to search a contained area at night by air was exploited on August 26, 2021 by a fugitive from Colorado who eluded capture after a high speed chase by hiding in Encampment.

The manhunt resulted in a shelter-in-place and a school closure order. A high-speed chase resumed 14 hours after the suspect first crashed his car in town and escaped on foot into the darkness. The following afternoon, the suspect stole drove out of town in a stolen pickup and a high-speed chase over Battle Pass ensued.

Chief Shue made the case in the grant application that an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), with thermal imaging capabilities, spotlights and trained pilots could have given law enforcement a high-altitude advantage early in the manhunt.

Layman said the drones being purchased are built for a variety of missions in Carbon County. The machines are robust. They can fly in high winds and in the extreme cold. Both drones come equipped with a spotlight and forward-facing infrared capabilities. The Emergency Management Coordinator described a couple of scenarios outside law enforcement where the drones could be deployed.

With the need for drones in Carbon County’s wide-open spaces well established, the news that Homeland Security was not going to fund any grants for them came as a disappointment. So Laymen went to work to secure another source of funding.

Layman ordered the package last week. One of the drones will go to Encampment, the other to the Emergency Management Office in Rawlins. From those locations, the units can be deployed to any location in the county for emergency or law enforcement purposes.

The package includes a one-day class with a trainer. Laymen said he’s hoping to have about a dozen pilots certified in safety, FAA regulations and flight operations so that the units can be deployed where needed in a responsible way. Layman said the pilots will come from fire departments, search and rescue, as well as H.F. Sinclair, which is underwriting the cost of the units.

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