Authorities in northeast Iowa are getting a bird’s eye view of potential drug operations.

Floyd County Sheriff’s Deputy Travis Bartz is flying in an Iowa Air National Guard helicopter this month to look for marijuana growing in rural areas. Bartz says the helicopter program is very useful for finding pot plants. Bartz says the helicopter “lets people out there know that if they’re growing marijuana, we’re going to catch them. This is another tool that we have access to and we’re going to use it.”

Bartz says the Sheriff’s Department has used helicopters before, but had not done a flyover to look for marijuana in several years. The ‘copter was used in a missing persons search last year that also involved drugs.

Bartz says the Guard helicopters won’t be used often, but the fly-overs are a helpful way for authorities to seek out marijuana. “We were able to identify some marijuana that was growing wild, but nothing that was being harvested,” Bartz says. “Like anything, it’s kinda’ hit or miss. Obviously, this is not a tool that we have available to us every day but it gives us a chance to see marijuana from an angle that we could not normally see.”

Bartz expects the flyovers to become more frequent. The Floyd County Sheriff’s Department has destroyed about four tons of marijuana in the past five years.