Port Mansfield Looking to Drones to Help with Rescues

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PORT MANSFIELD – Port Mansfield officials are looking to utilize drone technology to help with rescues in the Laguna Madre.

One of the biggest issues they face is actually locating a stranded boat itself. Sometimes they don’t have their proper GPS coordinates or they move.

The port currently works with local fisherman to help these stranded vessels.

Todd Grubert, a charter fisherman at the port, said getting stranded can be a common sight.

"Weekly, I'd say almost daily, you see someone getting pulled in by another boat," he said.

Grubert regularly works with the local police department to rescue stranded boats.

"Port Mansfield currently doesn't have its own vessel, so we've had to utilize different opportunities to address that," Port Mansfield Police Chief David Mays said.

The reason the port relies on fishermen, like Grubert, is also due to their location.

"Our proximity to Coast Guard and other resources and assets are a long distance away, so having the right information as quickly as possible saves lives," Mays said.

On Tuesday, the port, along with Texas A&M Corpus Christi, sent two drones out over the bay to see if they could be used in a real life scenario.

"Having that eye in the sky, having that technology above head, you are able to find it quicker. Give them the proper coordinates, what type of emergency is it. We want to make sure not only can you respond but is it an appropriate response," Mays explained.

The drone program actually started three years ago as an agreement with the port and Texas A&M Corpus Christi.

The drones use radar to track what's on the water, specifically boats.

Port Director Ron Mills said the technology will come in handy at the port.

"Either our entities or even local citizens, local fishermen can go help each other out, which now if somebody makes a call it's a matter of got to go find them,” he said.

The port has not spent any money on this project.

For anyone who plans to hit the waters, they’re encouraged to bring something that can track their location. People are urged to tell someone where they plan to go and when they’ll return.

Grubert said this will help authorities locate the person in case of an emergency.


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