Virginia Association of Counties Touts Sheriff’s Drone Program

The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office Small Unmanned Aircraft System program has received a 2018 Achievement Award as a model local government program from the Virginia Association of Counties.

The Loudoun sheriff’s office was the first agency in Virginia and the sixth agency in the United States to have a drone equipped with a Project Lifesaver antenna.

Project Lifesaver is an electronic-based locating system for people with medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, autism, or other conditions, who have a tendency to wander from home and get lost. Project Lifesaver clients are equipped with a wristband transmitter that emits an automatic locating signal. If the client becomes lost, the specially trained deputies with the sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team use the drone to help locate the client.

The sheriff’s $100,000 Lockheed Martin Indago drone can also carry infrared and high-resolution cameras to help in search and rescue operations. Search and Rescue Team members who operate the drone are licensed pilots through the FAA. By state law the drone may only be deployed by law enforcement without a warrant when operating for the purpose of search and rescue-related training.

The drone and the Search and Rescue Team received national attention in December 2017 after the drone was used to find a missing 92-year-old hunter in a heavily wooded area in Shenandoah County. Seven members of the team responded to the scene and used thermal imagers and the drone to search the area. The missing hunter was located safe just 20 minutes after the drone was deployed.

The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office was among 25 recipients of the 2018 Achievement Awards. The Virginia Association of Counties received 206 entries. Loudoun County has received 21 achievement awards in the 16-year history of the program. More information about the awards program is available at www.vaco.org.

The sheriff’s office’s drone lifts off, piloted by Deputy First Class Jamie Holben and commanded by Captain Mike Cox. (Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)

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