The Sheriff's Office obtained the 3 pound Draganflyer X6 unmanned helicopter through a mutual agreement with Draganfly Innovations Inc. in the fall of 2009, for free. This unique partnership allowed us to navigate the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) process and test the potential law enforcement capabilities without extensive financial costs. At the time, the UAV programs in law enforcement across the Country were less than five agencies, so this was really a pilot program for us. After nearly twelve months of working with the FAA to gain approval for a COA--Certificate of Authorization, we tested the Draganflyer X6 in a one square mile area at our County Landfill (per the restrictions of the FAA/COA). The Draganflyer X6 flies for about 15 minutes and carries a still camera, a color video camera or an Infrared camera. All providing real time viewing on the ground by the pilot.
By the fall of 2010, we had modified our COA agreement with the FAA to allow us to fly our UAV system anywhere in Mesa County, Colorado, during daytime hours. This greatly extended our testing ability, as well as allowed us to use these systems operationally, and we were able to assist the Colorado State Patrol with fatality crashes (aerial photos), the Grand Junction Fire Department with the White Hall fire (hot spot sensing and aerial photos), suspect apprehension and more.
In January 2012, we tested a fixed wing UAV product--the Falcon UAV. This product was the result of a partnership with a Colorado company, Falcon UAV, who ultimately only charged us for the materials to make the system. The Falcon has a much longer flight time (1hr) and we see potential in using it for search and rescue missions, wildland fire monitoring and broad area suspect searches.
To date our program has flown more than 55 missions with a combined 225 (plus) flight hours. We are beginning to implement UAS into day to day operations. It appears, at this time, that this new technology will work with law enforcement similar to a K-9 unit in that we are training current staff to operate these systems and allow them to carry the equipment in the back of their patrol car, not requiring the addition of new staff. Each pilot then shares the patrol car, UAV included.
CLICK HERE FOR FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS.
Search & Seizure Article by Aviation Attorney Tim Adelman
AUVSI Article on our UAV program (written fall 2013)
|Photo taken by: Kyle Allen, provided to MCSO courtesy of Falcon UAV. Photo is MCSO Patrol
Deputy Derek Johnson launching our agency Falcon fixed wing unmanned system.