The primary purpose of the project is to support the sheriff's statutory requirement to provide search-and-rescue functions, but the local Desert Research Institute has expressed interest in using the UAV for research purposes. The University of Nevada, Reno, has also shown an interest in using the aircraft for education.
The proposal for a UAV search-and-rescue program through the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office is the result of a collaborative effort that began about a year ago, explains Drone America, a provider of UAV technology.
The Sheriff’s Office plans to present the proposal to the Washoe County Board of County Commissioners in January for the board’s review and approval. The initial cost of the UAV is expected to come from drug forfeiture funds, according to Drone America.
At a media event on Dec. 17, Michael Haley, Washoe county sheriff; Brian Allen, police chief of Sparks, Nev.; and Mike Richards, president and CEO of Drone America, outlined the details of the proposal at Truckee Meadows Community College’s Reno Campus.
Project members are working with the Federal Aviation Administration to meet certification requirements necessary to use the UAV in Washoe County airspace. Because the UAV must be flown by qualified licensed pilots, the Sheriff’s Office Regional Aviation Enforcement Unit program will be responsible for operating the UAV.
Other stakeholders in the project include the Desert Research Institute; University of Nevada, Reno; the U.S. Attorney’s Office; and the Reno and Sparks police departments. The project has also been endorsed by U.S. Sen. Harry Reid.