sUAS for Richmond County Columbia Police

Air 1

American law enforcers continue the rush to acquire sUAS technology.

During a news conference today, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott unveiled the newest addition to the Department’s efforts in making our communities safer – A.I.R. Aerial Intelligence and Response.   Intelligence gathering, surveillance, search and rescue or special responses to critical incidents are now made easier through the use of radio controlled (RC) technology.

Sheriff Leon Lott demonstrated the new technology that will be used to capture criminals, gather intelligence and search for missing persons or suspects (among many other uses).  The Sheriff stated that radio controlled technology has become more trustworthy, more reliable, less expensive and allows for rapid deployment of an asset that will save time, money and lives.

Sheriff Leon Lott added that the RC helicopter is very inexpensive and can be deployed very quickly; while more importantly it can identify dangers in the community without putting human beings at risk.   Sheriff Leon Lott stated that Deputy Marcus Kim, of the Department’s Community Action Team, is spearheading the RC program for the Department.

Marcus has been an international consultant to RC manufacturers and professional RC helicopter pilot for 13 years.  Sheriff Leon Lott added that in addition to being assigned as the Department’s liaison with the Korean Community, and C.A.T. member for the Northeast Area of Richland County, Marcus will work closely with the Special Response Team and Criminal Investigations Division utilizingthis technology. Sheriff Leon Lott stated that this new equipment gives the Department a new edge in the fight against crime.

The Sheriff added that he will continue to search for innovative ways to fight crime in our communities.

“There are all kinds of possibilities,” Sheriff Leon Lott said. “It does everything a helicopter does, but it’s very quiet. It can get up there in the sky, so it’s just a dot, for covert surveillance.”

The sheriff’s department helicopter is battery operated, so it’s almost silent in the sky. The Columbia police chopper, dubbed Columbia Air-1, is gas powered.

The crafts are relatively cheap to buy and economical to operate. The sheriff’s department helicopter cost $3,200 and the city’s, $4,000, officials said. The money came from selling seized properties.

“There’s no expense except plugging in the battery,” Lott said. Unlike regular police choppers or airplanes, “If a bad guy shoots this down, it’s easily replaced and you don’t … risk a human life.”

The Columbia Air-1 pilot, Joshua Bice, is a former Marine who has flown remote-controlled helicopters for five years.

His craft got off to a fitful start Tuesday. A lose belt in the tail rotor brought the chopper down during a media demonstration.

“It didn’t crash, but it did come down,” police spokesman Brick Lewis said. “The fail-safe (system) kicked in, and the pilot was able to put it down safely.” The craft should be airworthy again within a week, he said.
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