In a demonstration yesterday, the Somerset County, N.J., Sheriff’s Office showed off the capabilities of its recently acquired rescue drone, which is designed specifically for the search and rescue of those with cognitive disorders who are prone to wandering, including those with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, autism and Down syndrome.
Called the Project Lifesaver Indago unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), the military-grade Lockheed Martin quadcopter was funded from the Sheriff’s Drug Enforcement Association forfeiture account, consisting of federal monies seized from cooperative investigations with members of the sheriff’s office.
Project Lifesaver is a program coordinated through the Somerset County Office on Aging & Disability Services and supported by the county Board of Chosen Freeholders. Upon acceptance into the program, clients wear a personalized bracelet that emits a signal that aids the sheriff’s office in locating the individual in an expeditious manner, should the need arise.
“The Indago UAV will allow us to increase our capabilities in locating a client who has wandered,” says Sheriff Frank J. Provenzano.. “This new asset will give us the ability to search even more efficiently over a broader area and will increase the probability of a successful recovery. We currently have 40 clients on the program – 23 children who have autism or Down syndrome and 17 adults who have dementia.”
The Somerset County Sheriff’s Office began Project Lifesaver in 2004. New Jersey became the first state in the country to have every sheriff’s office equipped and trained with Project Lifesaver in 2007; this enables sheriff’s offices across the state to assist other Project Lifesaver electronic search specialists in locating residents.
“This is a win-win for the sheriff’s office and the residents of Somerset County for our agency to be able to assist the special-needs community with a tool of this significance,” adds Provenzano. “The UAV system has greatly impacted search-and-rescue efforts in other parts of the country. We fully anticipate having the same positive results in our county during times of crisis when families need our services the most.”