Sheriff's Office hopes to change FAA regulations regarding UAVs

By: Aaron Luna Email
By: Aaron Luna Email

The Mesa County Sheriff's Office says there is new technology that can help them save lives. But the Federal Aviation Administration won't let them use it yet.

Made mostly of carbon fiber and weighing in at a mere two and a half pounds the Dragonflyer X6, is the latest piece of technology on the Mesa County Sheriff's Office wish list.

"We pride ourselves on being progressive on being the agency on the foremost of technology," says Sheriff’s Office Quartermaster Ben Miller. The small remote controlled helicopter can carry a payload of 500 grams. In this situation they have it fitted with a small digital camera which when in flight can take pictures of crime scenes, investigate hazardous chemical spills and search open spaces for evidence. It can even be fitted with a heat sensitive camera. Something Quartermaster Ben Miller says would be very effective during a search and rescue mission.
Miller say, "When it comes down to it we believe this technology can save lives."

But you won't see the Dragonflyer outside any time soon the FAA has strict regulations prohibiting the Sheriff's office from using this in support of operations and if or when those regulations will be lifted is anyone's guess. Miller says, "This is a technology that is necessary that will be effective."

Miller says right now the Dragonflyer falls under the same regulations that govern larger unmanned aerial vehicles like the military's predator drone. "There hasn't been enough data out there to show that they're significantly different," says, Miller. To change those rules the FAA would need the information that proves a small aircraft like the Dragonflyer could be used safely by law enforcement. Miller says, "What the Sheriff's Office hopes to do is create that data."

Right now the Sheriff's Office can only fly the Dragonflyer at the land fill with 24 hour notice to the FAA. They also can't fly it over residential neighborhoods or even at night. Miller says, "The purchase price of something like this compared to an airplane or helicopter like that, I would love to have one of these."

Right now the Sheriff's Office is only leasing the helicopter but if the rules are changed the Dragonflyer could be the newest tool for them.

A new Dragonflyer X6 costs around $25,000. The Sheriff's Office is leasing this one for $500 a month.

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