The Mesa County Sheriff’s Department has purchased a small drone aircraft for $14,000 to use in investigations and in search and rescue operations.
Sheriff’s officers demonstrated the 4-foot-long, 9-pound vehicle Friday. The plane can stay airborne for an hour, fly at an altitude of 400 feet and send video and infrared images to ground controllers.
“If we get the description that (a missing) mountain biker has a red shirt on or a yellow helmet, we can search for the bright yellow, but also if they are somewhat concealed under foliage, we can go to infrared and look for their heat signature,” said Ben Miller, who runs the department’s remotely piloted aircraft program.
The Mesa County Sheriff’s Department is one of three law-enforcement agencies in the U.S. operating unmanned aerial vehicles, sheriff’s spokeswoman Heather Benjamin said.
Mesa County authorities are called to an average of 70 rescue attempts a year. Officials said the plane could also be useful for observation during wildfires.
The plane has manual pilot capabilities but is most useful and efficient on autopilot, allowing its operators to type into a computer where they want the plane to fly.
“You tell it where to go, and it will continuously fly over those parameters you set for it,” Benjamin said.
The sheriff’s department is test-flying the aircraft and expects it will be ready for use within the next couple of months.
Officials say the department has FAA permission to fly the drone anywhere in Mesa County in daylight hours.
The sheriff’s department said the technology will not replace any deputies but rather help them work more efficiently.
The department also has a remotely controlled helicopter, but it costs more to fly, cannot stay aloft as long and is more vulnerable to bad weather.
Falcon UAV is a small unmanned aircraft system which provides customers afforadable aerial reconnaisance at a fraction of the cost of manned aviation and overpriced military UAVs. The Falcon UAV is a man portable or vehicle portable system which may be transportorted backpack or ruggedized case. The Falcon UAV modular design allows easy assembly and disassembly as well as simplified logistics support. Falcon UAV is a professionally engineered system and constructed of aircraft grade composites and hardware. Falcon UAV is an FAA approved system is the fixed wing aircraft solution for the Mesa County Sherriff’s Office (Colorado).
- Payload Gimbaled 10x Zoom Sony Block Camera and/or Thermal Infrared Camera
- Video Range 2 – 5 miles (Link / Antenna Dependent)
- Endurance 1 hour
- Speed 25 – 55 mph (22 – 49 knots)
- Altitude 300 – 1500 ft Above Ground Level (AGL)
- Wing Span 96 inches
- Length 50 inches
- Weight 10 lbs
- Launch Hand or Bungee Launch
- Navigation GPS Waypoints / Stabilized Joystick Ctrl
- Recovery Belly Landing or Parachute
The Falcon UAV is constructed of aircraft grade composite materials and aluminum structure. The three piece wing structure and V-tail sections are comprised of a fiberglass skin over a lightweight core. Supporting rib ends align integrated spar tubing for easy wing section mating during assembly. The fuselage tube sections are fabricated from a high strength aluminum alloy while the avionics section, camera payload, parachute payload and wing mating brackets are fabricated from carbon fiber composites.