As part of a public/private partnership with Minnesota-based Sentera LLC, the Riverside County, Calif., Sheriff’s Department has begun its evaluation program for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), which the department hopes to use to augment search-and-rescue (SAR) operations in the future.
The training site, a 400-acre agricultural area, will be controlled by sheriff’s personnel and signage during the training operations. A Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) has been issued by the Federal Aviation Administration to fly the Sentera Phoenix M2 UAS at a maximum altitude of 400 feet within the training site.
The department says it responded to more than 170 SAR-related incidents in 2014. As part of ongoing efforts to explore means of improving operations and reducing costs, it has been researching the concept of using drones and received its COA last December.
The proof-of-concept testing agreement with Sentera comprises a one-year, no-cost evaluation period. The testing will focus on SAR operations in which a fixed-wing UAS could be deployed to support and supplement current resources.
The department says it will be providing regular public notification of training flights throughout the summer as the program moves forward. The public will be made aware on each occasion that low-flying aircraft will be present in the area.
Photo courtesy of Sentera