Christmas came early for Alabama law enforcement after a non-profit donated a search-and-rescue drone last week.
According to a report in the Montgomery Advertiser, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s office received a DJI Inspire drone from the Alzheimer’s and Autism Outreach Group to assist the department in emergency responses – especially in search and rescue. The gift is the second quadcopter the group has given to Alabama law enforcement – the first to the Dallas County Sheriff’s department in July 2016.
“This is another tool in our arsenal that will allow us to bring loved ones home,” Montgomery County Sheriff Derrick Cunningham told the Advertiser. The Inspire is equipped with a thermal imaging rig – a key component for finding missing persons.
Montgomery County as a whole has been an early adopter of drone tech. In 2014, the county fire and rescue department purchased three UAVs to view fire scenes from the sky. “I think that this is going save lives, and it’s also going to save property loss, and it’s going to save us time,” Montgomery County Fire Department assistant chief Mike Clemens said at the time.
The AOG also donated a similar drone last year to nearby Autauga County, leading to the successful rescue of a missing elderly man.
“We were able to clear that area in a space of less than 5 minutes with the drone,” county emergency director Ernie Baggett told the Advertiser. “It would have taken several hours for people on the ground to conduct a grid search in a very difficult, and hazardous, environment.”
In fact, public agencies across Alabama have been excited about drones from the start. Last year, police in Selma deployed four Phantom 3 Pros to provide security for the annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee which commemorates the civil-rights march from Selma to Montgomery.
In 2015, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley launched a UAS Task Force to coordinate state drone initiatives with FAA mandates. The five-member task force formed seven subcommittees to examine specific areas including functionality, education, regulation, research and safety.
The task force recommended the governor appoint a UAS Council and place drone authority under the state transportation department.
The drone community was quick to laud the state’s efforts: “The UAS Task Force and its subcommittees laid the groundwork for a system that can examine UAS-related issues from a variety of perspectives and help the state make well-informed decisions rather than knee-jerk reactions,” drone expert Patrick Miller stated in a UAS Magazine article.