Macomb County Sheriff's Office deploy drones for water rescues

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With record high water levels and dangerous currents on the Great Lakes, this summer has proved to be an active one for water rescues. 

So when new technology like drones is available to help in the search and rescue efforts, the Macomb County Sheriff's Office will embrace it - and we got to see it in action.

The boats at the Macomb County Sheriff's Office Marine Division are built for speed. Seconds matter if someone is struggling in the water. 

"We'll just immediately go out to where they are at and try to get as much information while we are on the way," said Dep. Jamie Bagos.

But what happens if you don't know where that missing person is? That's where an eye high above on a drone comes in handy. 

"(It) expands our eyes and ears so to speak, and get to places where we might not be able to see, from a water level."

The Macomb County Sheriff's department has two drones - both with cameras - one with front-facing infrared vision or Flir.

"The Flir system helps us out at night because it detects heat signatures from people," Bagos said.

They also have deputies like Bagos trained to fly them. 

Just to illustrate when the drone might come into play, let's say you are floating along and you come untied from your boat. You start drifting away, then a distress call comes in and the drone goes up.

"We've got to find Dave here in the water," Bagos said. "So what I'm going to do is launch the UAV up in the air and try and locate him."

A panicked or weak swimmer might easily get overwhelmed alone in open water. Once the drone locks in the deputies can do the rest. 

This summer has been a deadly one on Michigan's Great Lakes. So far this year in Lake Michigan alone there have been 29 reported drownings. That is 11 more than this time last year. So every tool that marine rescuers can use they will. 

The sheriff's office says there a lot of things you can do to prevent needing a rescue on the water - check the weather, you can download a GPS app on your phone and always where a life jacket.