Salt Lake County surveyor says new drone will save time, money

    Salt Lake County Surveyor Reid Demman watches his office's new drone fly in West Jordan Monday, July 11 (Photo: Daniel Woodruff/KUTV)

    (KUTV) Salt Lake County is taking some of its work to the skies.

    The surveyor's office has bought a new drone which officials say will save time and money.

    "I'm still having a hard time wrapping my head around how much information we're able to gather in such a short period of time," said Mark Miller, surveyor's office employee and pilot-in-command of the county's new drone.

    Earlier this week, he and Salt Lake County Surveyor Reid Demman headed to the Welby gravel pit in West Jordan to continue testing the new $1,300 gadget. The drone flew above the pit taking photos to determine how much gravel is in the piles.

    The drone finished the job in roughly 10 minutes. It would have taken a crew of people several hours to do the same thing.

    "It's exciting," said Demman, who pitched buying the drone two years ago. "I thought it was a good idea and saw a lot of potential uses and benefit."

    But it's taken a while for his office to get certified to use it.

    "The FAA treats us just like if you were getting in the cockpit of a 747," Miller said.

    Each time, the surveyor's office has to file a flight plan, inform local life flight choppers, and keep a close eye out.

    "I'm watching all the air traffic that's moving through the area," said Miller as the drone flew around. "I'm looking for birds. I'm just constantly just making sure it's doing what I anticipated it doing."

    Demman says if the drone collects accurate data at the gravel pits, it could be used all over the county. But, he's quick to point out, it would not fly everywhere.

    "We're not going to be surveilling and spying," Demman said, promising the drone will stay at least 100 feet away from private property. "We're going to assess every mission for safety, privacy."

    Overall, county officials believe this new device will save a lot of money for taxpayers and even provide some fun along the way.

    "It does what the computer tells it to do," said Miller, "and we stand here and look pretty."

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