For the first time, a drone aided in the efforts to find missing woman Christina Morris, who disappeared from the Shops at Legacy in Plano on August 30. After failing to find the 23-year-old on foot, horseback and ATV, Texas Equusearch obtained emergency permission from the FAA to search for her by drone.
The first unmanned flight took off September 11. The authorization allows Equusearch to operate a drone until sunset September 15.
Drone pilot Gene Robinson says he collected hundreds of images that will now be scanned and analyzed for clues. "There's a lot of data to go over," he says, adding that the drone camera can view items as small as 6 inches.
Drone pilot Gene Robinson calls the speedy authorization by the FAA "precedent setting."
Robinson calls the speedy authorization by the FAA "precedent setting." Texas Equusearch has been embroiled in a legal battle with the FAA since February about the use of unmanned aircraft in search-and-rescue missions. "It bestows a great deal of trust on us to make sure we do it correctly," he says.
Texas Equusearch director Tim Miller didn't want to disclose exactly where the drone is being used for strategic reasons. "We don't want to do anything to jeopardize the investigation," Miller says.
Meanwhile, Plano police continue to work on new leads in the case. Spokesperson David Tilley says they have received a number of tips recently, and he hopes that trend will continue.
"We are still encouraging everybody to come forward if they have any information," he says. "No matter how insignificant they think it is, we want to hear about it."
Equusearch has set up a command center at Legacy Church in Plano for friends and family of Christina to gather. Christina's mother, Jonni McElroy, and her stepmother, Anna Morris, are fixtures at the building.
"It's easier to be here than it is to be home sometimes," Morris says. "It's uplifting that people are coming out and they aren't giving up either."
Anyone wishing to help the search for Christina is urged to pick up fliers at Legacy Church (4501 Legacy Dr.) or participate in the daily searches that begin at 7:30 am.