The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office recently acquired a small Unmanned Aircraft System, commonly referred to as a “drone.” It is the first in Virginia and the sixth in the United States to be equipped with a Project Lifesaver antennae. The Project Lifesaver program is an electronic based locating system for people with medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Autism, or other conditions, that have a tendency to wander from home and become lost.
Project Lifesaver clients are equipped with a wristband transmitter that emits an automatic locating signal. If the client becomes lost, the specially trained deputies with the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Team will now use the sUAS, equipped with the Project Lifesaver payload, to help locate the client. “Project Lifesaver continues to offer the client’s caregiver peace of mind. This new technology will allow our deputies to more efficiently search for residents in the Project Lifesaver program and other missing persons and bring them home safe,” said Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman.
The LCSO currently has 107 clients in the Project Lifesaver program. The LCSO fully implemented Project Lifesaver in 2010 and has been 100 percent successful in locating 23 missing clients over the past seven years with many being rescued in under 30 minutes.
The LCSO sUAS is also enabled to carry a payload of infrared and high resolution cameras to assist in search and rescue operations. Members of the LCSO Search and Rescue Team who operate the sUAS are licensed pilots through the Federal Aviation Administration.
The sUAS was approved for purchase by the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors in FY 2017. The cost included the sUAS and accessories, multiple payloads to include the Project Lifesaver antennae, infrared and high resolution cameras, as well as the training of the pilots from the LCSO.
Per the Code of Virginia, the sUAS may only be deployed by law enforcement without a warrant when operating for the purpose of search and rescue and related training.