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 operator.
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.
To date, our program has flown hundreds of missions. We most often use it for crime scene photography, and search and rescue missions. With aerial crime scene photography, we can build three-dimensional models useful for investigators, prosecutors, and juries. In search and rescue missions, aerial views can be enhanced with the use of infrared technology, which provides a better view of anything with a heat signature. While less frequently used, we have used the system to attempt to locate dangerous fugitives in wooded areas and assisted arson investigators in identifying heat sources on structure fires.
Frequently Asked Questions
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UAS Program Director
Lt. Eric Sperber
Phone: (970) 244-3251
Public Information Officer, Megan Terlecky