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Grand Forks County gets permission to fly drones at night

GRAND FORKS — Grand Forks County Sheriff Bob Rost announced Friday that his department is the first law enforcement agency in the nation granted federal authorization to fly unmanned aircraft throughout its jurisdiction.

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In a partnership with the University of North Dakota’s aerospace school and two drone makers, the sheriff’s department has been flying small drones for more than a year, deployed nine times on official missions.

The Federal Aviation Administration authorized the department to fly drones in 16 counties in northeast North Dakota. The new authorization to also fly drones at night was announced Friday. The sheriff’s department had been developing the night-flight capability since fall.

The unmanned aircraft partnership is governed by a UND compliance committee that has approved five types of missions for the UAS: searches for missing people; searches for “serious” criminal suspects; disaster assessments; documenting accident and crime scenes, usually mapping for investigative reasons; and monitoring traffic at major events.

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