February 1, 2023 |

County law enforcement and the Office of Emergency Management made good use of their donated drones in a recent search for a lost person.

As reported by Bigfoot 99, two weeks ago, emergency responders were alerted to a missing person. Neal Forbes, a 70-year-old Saratoga man, disappeared east of town, while driving his vehicle. County Emergency Management Coordinator Lenny Layman said he and Encampment Police Chief Kevin Shue were asked to bring their drones to aid in the search.

Pictured above: File photo of a drone in the air.

After a government grant request fell through, H.F. Sinclair purchased and donated two high-tech, unmanned aerial vehicles — or UAVs — to the county. The year before, law enforcement chased a suspect wanted in a Denver shooting into Encampment where he eluded capture using the cover of night. The next day, the man led police on a high-speed chase around the county in a stolen pickup. The manhunt demonstrated the need for a surveillance system capable of spotting people in the dark.

Layman and Chief Shue received the pair of drones in August. Layman said the Carbon County Sheriff’s Office has used different UAVs in the past, but January 19th’s search was the initial test of the new equipment.

Layman said he didn’t fly the UAV himself during the search. Sheriff’s Deputy John Moore handled piloting duties because he has more experience flying drones. Layman said the remote-controlled vehicles were deployed from the rear of his Office of Emergency Management truck, allowing the searchers to remain warm while the drones explored the frigid night.

While the rescuers enjoyed the heat inside of Layman’s truck, the cold weather was draining the batteries of the drones. Layman said he and Chief Shue had spare power cells ready to swap out as the drones returned to base.

The drones were designed to handle the high winds and low temperatures of Wyoming. Layman said, even with the decreased battery life, he was impressed by how well they functioned.

Equipped with state-of-the-art infrared sensors, the drones can see heat signatures, even in complete darkness. The emergency manager said he was unfamiliar with how objects would look in infrared, but once they saw Neal Forbes’ vehicle on the monitor, there was no mistaking what it was.

Unfortunately, when searchers reached vehicle, they found the body of Mr. Forbes who had already died at the scene.

As a result of the experience, Layman said he is putting together a UAV flying course. If county agencies do not have a trained operator, Layman said he would volunteer his piloting skills.

Layman said the drones are a phenomenally helpful tool in the county’s search and rescue arsenal.

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