Sheriff’s office aviation unit making advancements in technology and training

Chief Pilot and Investigator Sean Mitchell demonstrates the flight characteristics of the new UAV to Pilot and Investigator Ann Marie Mitchell, Pilot and Deputy Zach Harkness, and Pilots in training, Investigator James McQueen, Deputy Shandlynn Rhame and Deputy Brad Taylor.

It has been only a little over a year since the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office joined the growing trend across the United States among both small and large law enforcement agencies in establishing an aviation unit. This new and growing technology of small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) is being used for a multitude of assignments.

The Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) that was put into full operation on April 20, 2018, was placed under the command of the Special Operations Division of the Sheriff’s Office with the purchase of a Phantom 4 Pro Plus small unmanned aircraft with funds secured through court-awarded confiscated drug money.

“It did not take long before technology advanced so quickly in this field, as well as finding that a more advanced UAV was needed to address the many and varied type of flights the UAV pilots were being requested to fly, that it became obvious the Phantom 4 ship needed to be replaced by a more advanced UAV to address new and more complicated missions,” said Capt. Ken DeFoor, spokesperson for the sheriff’s office.

Enter the newer, smaller yet more advanced Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual UAV. A trade-in using the Phantom 4 made the update not only financially beneficial as once again funding came from court-awarded confiscated drug monies, but the newer drone has features such as a FLIR system, which is badly needed in search and rescue/recovery flights in both daylight and nighttime.

“The Mavic 2 also carries a spot meter that can measure critical or hazardous objects while maintaining a safe distance such as chemical spills and other chemicals that may have a temperature limit. This obvious safety feature for firefighters and Hazmat personnel is unmatched in its usefulness and reliability. These are only a few of the features that makes this Mavic 2 a far superior UAV than the first and it is available to any agency in Liberty County with highly trained pilots who have been licensed by the FAA as remote UAV pilots,” DeFoor said.

Sheriff Bobby Rader is pleased that LCSO employees are coming up with creative and beneficial ideas to benefit the sheriff’s office and other agencies in the county.

“Although our office does not have the funds to invest in many of the ideas, we have invested in an Aviation Unit, once again at no cost to the tax-paying citizen, by using funds obtained from court-awarded drug money,” Rader said. “We have already assisted in fatal accident investigations for the Department of Public Safety as well as crime scene investigations for other agencies by flying the UAV over their scenes preparing documentation for later court procedures. This technology, which is on-call 24/7, will also allow our office to conduct search and rescue missions for missing persons day or night.”

Rader added that he appreciates the training deputies have undertaken to become FAA licensed and approved. This training and certification will assure that the LCSO follows all rules and regulations required by the FAA as well as the sheriff’s office’s Standard Operating Procedures.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.