The Tulare County Board of Supervisors got an unexpected treat when Sheriff Mike Boudreaux showed up to its March 8 meeting to demonstrate the department’s newest piece of law enforcement equipment.
Officially referred to as an unmanned aerial system (UAS) Boudreaux displayed a demonstration model of a drone the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department plans on purchasing. The drone is similar in appearance to some civilian drones used by hobbyists, except that the law enforcement’s drone is incredibly advanced.
Just to qualify to operate this particular drone takes a pilot’s license. The TCSD is in the process of receiving the Certificate of Authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to qualify to operate the drone. The department already has a pilot qualified to undergo the training needed to fly the drone.
The law enforcement drone can fly a mile-and-a-half away and has an advanced surveillance system mounted on top of it that can take a live feed video up to two miles away. It can be airborne up to one hour depending on the conditions and can go 5,000 feet up into the air. Restrictions by the FAA limit the drone to 400 feet so it does not interfere with manned aircraft.
According to the TCSD the drone “saves money, enhances safety, saves lives and can be utilized across a myriad of public safety disciplines.” The drone saves money in the sense it’s capabilities can take the place of using an airplane for law enforcement that can be hugely expensive. The drone can also take the place of a dozen sheriff department personnel on a search and rescue.
The system will provide real-time situational analysis for first responders to include search and rescue missions, fleeing suspects, forensic photography of crime scenes, natural or man-made disaster documentation, and any other observation duties where placing an officer into the immediate location would endanger his or her health and safety.
Boudreaux did want to make clear that the drone cannot fly over people’s homes or pools. He said that the only time the drone can fly over someone’s home is through a court order or a warrant permitting it’s use.
“It’s a beautiful piece of equipment,” said Boudreaux. He added that the advantage of this model is that the department can add equipment in the future such as infra-red photography.
The TCSD becomes only the third department in the state to use this technology behind Alameda and Ventura Counties.
“I promised that we would be moving our agency into the future with advanced technology,” said Boudreaux.