Sheriff’s Office’s New Drone to Augment SAR for Special-Needs Persons

The Somerset County, N.J., Sheriff’s Office has purchased a drone in collaboration with the Project Lifesaver team and Lockheed Martin.

The aircraft 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.

The PLI Indago unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) from Lockheed Martin is a military-grade quadcopter that will be especially useful in the search and rescue of special-needs persons who are prone to the life-threatening behavior of wandering, including those with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, autism and Down syndrome.

“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,” says Frank J. 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.”

Project Lifesaver is a program coordinated through the Somerset County Office on Aging & Disability Services (OOA&DS) and supported by the county’s Board of Chosen Freeholders. Families with loved ones at risk of wandering due to cognitive and learning disabilities contact the OOA&DS for an assessment that determines program eligibility, assists families in understanding their loved one’s condition, and provides information on programs and services for which they may be eligible. 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 Somerset County, N.J., Sheriff’s Office is the first public safety agency in the country to adopt the PLI Indago UAV system,” says Gene Saunders, founder and CEO of Project Lifesaver International. “This type of innovative thinking and planning shows the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office’s commitment to the special-needs community and their dedication to protecting all in Somerset County.”

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