MIAMI COUNTY — Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or UAVs, known commonly as “drones” are being used in many facets of our lives. The recent purchase of a UAV by the Miami County Sheriff’s Office is a new tool for local deputies.
Every piece of equipment available to law enforcement officers has its own unique job. Most of those tools have one specific job. The addition of a UAV opens up an entire new book of crime-fighting and public safety possibilities.
The drone, a DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual, is a state-of-the-art flying machine. It is currently being operated by the department’s chief pilot, Deputy Richard Manns. Manns is both FAA certified as a UAV pilot and also holds a private pilot’s license.
“We are blessed that Deputy Manns is already a pilot,” said Sheriff Dave Duchak, “He also has his FAA certification. I give him a lot of credit. He did all the research and he came up with a good recommendation.”
The drone and all of its accessories were purchased with “drug funds,” or money forfeited by drug dealers following their arrest and conviction. The equipment came at no cost to taxpayers.
The drone has the ability to fly and shoot both high-resolution still photos as well as digital video. Manns emphasized some of the many uses for those capabilities. Among them are the ability to search large areas quickly. If a child or senior citizen goes missing, every minute could mean the difference between life and death, he said.
In recent months, a drone was put to use by sheriff’s deputies to search for a suicidal person, Manns said. The drone allowed deputies to search more rapidly than on foot. It also meant that officers remained safe from possible ambush, he said.
Augmenting all of the above scenarios is the drone’s thermal imaging capability. The camera senses heat sources, allowing the pilot to detect body heat or even a warm vehicle engine.
A loud speaker accessory allows deputies the ability to provide audio messages or broadcasts at far greater distances than traditional PA systems.
The drone also can utilize both flood and spot lights to operate in low light and at night.
Manns said operation of the UAV must still adhere to FAA flight rules although waivers, such as one granting permission to fly at night, will be in the works.
The DJI Mavic is compact and can be set up and ready to fly in minutes, according to Mann. It has a top speed, in sport mode, in excess of 40 miles per hour and can be safely operated in winds in the 20 miles per hour range, he said. It is also sealed to make it resistant to weather.
Duchak has sent a memo to other law enforcement agencies in the county of the drone’s availability.
“It is available for their use,“ Duchak said. “It is going to greatly assist in prosecution in fatal crashes and outdoor crime scenes. This will be a great asset to the county.”
Manns said two additional deputies are currently working to obtain their FAA part 107 license.
Reach Mike Ullery at firstname.lastname@example.org
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