The Federal Aviation Administration has granted authorization for night training unmanned aircraft operations to the Grand Forks County Sheriff’s Department. Previously, only daytime operations were permitted.
The Grand Forks Sheriff’s Department is one of only two law enforcement agencies nationwide authorized to conduct night operations.
The Grand Forks Sheriff’s Department Unmanned Aircraft Systems Unit is a collaboration between the Sheriff’s Department, the University of North Dakota, and two small unmanned aircraft systems manufacturers (AeroViroment and Draganfly Innovations). The unit has been deployed six times since May 2013 on diverse incidents ranging from documenting erosion control measures on the Turtle River to searching for suspects wanted for commission of serious felonies.
Upon completing training in night operations, additional Federal Aviation Administration and University of North Dakota Unmanned Aircraft Systems Research Compliance Committee authorizations will be obtained prior to the commencement of jurisdiction-wide night time unmanned aircraft flights.
Unit flights are always conducted within a very limited “defined incident perimeter” maintained by law enforcement personnel. The unmanned aircraft are always operated within line-of-sight of the ground based pilot and are never utilized for routine patrol.