Clarke County Emergency Management has filled a technology gap in Southern Iowa with the acquisition of a new, high-tech drone, and now has an efficient, safe tool for a variety of emergency situations.

In the fall of 2017, Stephens State Forest was the scene of a search-and-rescue operation for a couple of missing hunters. The dense growth and sheer size of the forest made the search difficult. It was at this time that Byron Jimmerson, Clarke County EM Coordinator, began his quest to improve emergency services across Clarke County and Southern Iowa.

Over the next year, Jimmerson researched search and rescue drone scenarios and the technology involved. He took classes on licensing, compared the different formats available, learned how to implement a drone public safety management program, and began the process of securing funding.

“This public safety purchase was only possible through grants and our generous donors,” Jimmerson said. “After their help, we were able to by top-of-the-line equipment and pay for licensing and training without the use of any taxpayer money. This is a huge win for Clarke County and surrounding communities.”

Clarke County Emergency Management was able to buy the DJI Inspire1 which came with the smaller DJI Spark – both highly touted as “top-of-the-line” drones for search and rescue and emergency piloting as well as surveillance tools. The smaller Spark is ideal for training and potential in-building applications, while the larger Inspire can withstand harsher Iowa weather conditions and is capable of covering much larger areas. Both drones come with a built-in fixed camera for use by the pilot through the control panel. Camera capabilities on the Inspire include  4K resolution with an 8X zoom, as well as a thermal FLIR® camera to be used on a 360˚ panning and tilting gimble mounted beneath the drone. As an added benefit, Jimmerson procured a 39” smart television with a trailer mount to help Emergency Management create a command center at any surveillance scene, allowing the entire team or extended EMS support or other County officials to be involved in the operation.

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“During a recent training session, we took the team out to a corn field and asked two of them to hide in the corn. We had searchers on foot as well as the drone in the air, searching at the same time. The foot team, with flashlights, was within one row of one person and was unable to find him, while we had to ask the other person to hide better because the drone was able to pick him out immediately with the thermal camera,” Byron said. “This just illustrates what a tremendous advantage this equipment will provide for emergency services, whether searching for lost people or fugitives.”

Another feature of the DJI Inspire is the ability to carry a payload. Jimmerson has begun training to use the drone in water rescues by delivering a rescue float to a water victim. With the addition of 400’ of paracord, the Inspire can not only distribute payloads up to six LVS, but can also drop a line to victims needing to be pulled ashore in open water or provide enough tension to keep them afloat until the rescue team can reach them.

This new technology is a great win for Clarke County and all of Southern Iowa. The more than $15,000.00 purchase was only made possible through grants and donations from:

  • The Schildberg Foundation
  • Clarke County Development Corporation – Pillars Grant
  • South Central Iowa Community Foundation
  • The Alliant Energy Foundation
  • DSLR
  • Walmart
  • The Osceola Rotary Club
  • ICAP
  • Clarke Electric
  • American Legion Post 69

Make sure you check out and “Like” the Clarke County Emergency Management Facebook page for recent videos and information about the new drone program.

For more information on the Clarke County Emergency Management drone technology, please contact Byron Jimmerson, CCEM Coordinator, at – Email:, Phone – 641.342.6654, Web –, or connect with them on Facebook