The San Angelo Police Department has recently launched a Small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS) program, which will be comprised of newly acquired Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (sUAV), or drones.
The Departments newly formed unit can deploy officers who have specialized training in sUAS operation and hold Part 107 certificates through the Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates the commercial use of drones. The Unit’s missions will include video and photographic documentation of crime and accident scenes, searches in large or inaccessible locations, HAZMAT incidents, critical incident support, assistance to fire suppression efforts, disaster area damage assessments, and search and rescue operations. The Unit has already utilized the sUAS on-site at crash scenes, crime scenes, and to search for missing persons.
During critical incidents, the sUAS Unit will provide real-time observation of the scene to Incident Commanders, while keeping the public and first responders at a safe distance if necessary. Assistance in large, inaccessible areas for Search and Rescue operations will be quicker, safer, and less time-consuming. Aerial documentation of crime and accident scenes offers perspectives that are not able to be obtained from ground sources and will assist with presentations of evidence in court settings.
In addition, the use of the sUAS along with mapping software will allow accurate documentation of accident scenes and would significantly reduce the length of time streets are closed following a fatality.
In recent years, advances in sUAS technology have made it possible for smaller public safety operations to utilize air support which was previously limited to larger departments who could afford the expense of manned aircraft. Across the country, there are more than 900 state and local police, fire and emergency units with UAVs.