Several times a year, Northumberland County Sheriff’s Office is faced with locating a person who is reported missing and has wandered on foot. Because of this and the extended response time from search and rescue units scattered all over the state, in late 2019 the Northumberland County Sheriff’s office began to establish a drone program.
After much research, funds were used from the asset forfeiture account to purchase a DJI Mavic Pro 2 Enterprise drone and all the required flight equipment.
Four sworn officers were chosen to become FAA licensed and train to operate the drone. Deputy Stephen Akers, Deputy Zack Kues, Captain Ashby Allen, and Sheriff Johnny Beauchamp all passed the 30-hour licensing course; then completed an additional 48 hours of flight training.
Training was provided by Zimbro Aerial Drone Integration Services (ZADIS) of Wicomico Church. The training was incorporated with Fairfields Volunteer Fire Department. Training included operators from each drone team so they would be familiar with one another and be able to work together.
They hope to use this new drone program to assist with search and rescue missions, resource management, damage assessment, and infrared analysis.
The drone and its operators, affectionately nicknamed the “flight crew,” constantly keep up-to-date on regulations and perform maintenance flights on a bi-weekly basis.
The drone, which requires at least two crew members, can be ready to deploy within an hour of an emergency. It has many attachments such as a speaker, spotlight, camera, and FLIR infrared radar to assist in missions.
The Northumberland County Sheriff’s Office would like to thank David Zimbro and his team for providing the training and equipment and David Hudnall for the use of his property.