Over the past nine months, the department has been crafting official policies and procedures for the safe use of the drone during law enforcement and emergency response missions.
“This technological advancement supports the vision of the Sheriff by improving the Sheriff’s Office’s ability to efficiently and effectively enforce the law, protect lives, and save valuable resources in time, personnel and money,” TCSO public information officer Teresa Douglass stated in a press release.
The quadcopter (model unnamed), can fly up to one-and-a-half miles for approximately one hour but can “remain working on-station for an unlimited amount of time due to a sophisticated battery and charging platform that travels with the system,” Douglass said.
Two officers are already licensed for manned aircraft flight and the department has trained three drone pilots so far. According to the sheriff’s office, the drone can capture live-feed video from up to two miles away and sports a “boomerang” feature that will send the UAV back to base if power levels decrease too much.
The drone squad will likely see a lot of search-and-rescue action since three national parks — Sequoia National Park, part of Kings Canyon National Park and part of Mount Whitney – are located in Tulare County.
Tulare County is one of a handful of California agencies to have embraced UAV tech this year. In July, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office added four additional drones to its fleet – bringing the total to six following its first purchase in 2014.
Four Southern California police agencies began exploring or launching drone programs this past spring and summer. In Fontana, the local police department purchased a DJI Phantom 2 quadcopter that features infrared capabilities. Fontana has also partnered with the Inland Valley SWAT Team and plans to use drones in tactical operations.
The FAA granted the San Bernardino Police Department approval to deploy drones in March. The department will use a DJI Inspire 1 to capture crime-scene footage and search for missing persons. In March, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department launched a search-and-rescue UAV pilot program as a yearlong trial; in addition police in Murrieta Police flew a drone in a 2015 shooter-training exercise.