The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has announced the Federal Aviation Administration’s approval of the Department’s use of an unmanned aircraft system.
In a press conference Thursday, January 12, 2017, at the Hall of Justice, Sheriff Jim McDonnell announced recent approval from Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authorities for the use of an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) in specifically defined incidents which include: Search and rescue, explosive ordnance detection, hazardous materials incidents, disaster response, arson fires, hostage rescue, and barricaded, armed suspects.
The vertically-mobile, remotely-controlled, flying tool with an on-board video camera is assigned to the Special Enforcement Bureau, where it will be the most beneficial to units under its umbrella, including the Emergency Services Detail, Special Enforcement Detail, Arson/Explosives Detail, and the HazMat Detail.
Having such a versatile tool will soon prove to be a great asset because it can be quickly deployed and provide close up views of outlying subjects. The ability to rapidly gather otherwise inaccessible, yet vital, information during tactical operations is exponentially increased and can, thus, assist deputies to better determine the safest, most prudent and humane approaches to uncertain, isolated or hostile situations.
A key group of deputies were trained to operate the UAS and each one received a Remote Pilot certificate with a small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS) rating from the FAA. The UAS can be deployed in tactical situations such as active shooter incidents and hostage situations to better protect the public. Deputy personnel also trained as tactical medics can use the UAS to remotely assess injured patients and provide them with rapid medical care.
Although inclement weather prevented a dynamic demonstration of the UAS’s capabilities, it remained an impressive static display, accompanied by a video presentation. Special Enforcement Bureau Captain Jack Ewell stood by Sheriff McDonnell at the event, along with the specially trained deputy personnel who will operate the system, integrated to aid in the safety of all.
“The dangers of law enforcement can never be eliminated,” said Sheriff McDonnell. “However, this technology can assist us in reducing the impact of risks on personnel and allow us to perform operations to enhance public safety.”
“We are continuing to raise the bar as a leader in law enforcement and always looking for ways to do the job better,” he said.
An example of tactically sound leverage the UAS will bring, is the ability to provide an aerial view during suspicious device calls. This will greatly assist Bomb Squad personnel to safely assess from a remote location one of the near-600 suspicious or unattended package/device calls they investigate annually.
The UAS can provide vital, life-preserving assistance in deployments to the approximate-125 annual HazMat Detail response operations. This invaluable machinery can operate in contaminated areas, and provide information needed to safeguard the area and the surrounding community.
Fire scenes can be viewed remotely using the UAS prior to personnel entering a burn area, to assist in determining the origin of the fire, when it is safe to enter the fire area and if there are any unseen victims. Arson/Explosives Detail investigators respond to an average of 500 calls per year and the UAS will certainly prove itself indispensable in these types of incidents.
Search and Rescue personnel respond to over 500 search and rescue operations each year; many in treacherous terrain. Despite their skilled capabilities, deployment between large trees and into precarious canyon areas too small or dangerous for aircraft. The UAS can be effectively employed in this type of operation to locate and remotely assess injured patients.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department continues to evaluate and engage various tools of technology in a perpetual endeavor to improve safety for personnel and members of the public, increase our operational efficiency and raise our level of service to the residents in the communities we serve. The new Unmanned Aircraft System is the latest example of this commitment in our Tradition of Service.