The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office officially unveiled its new, state-of-the-art Unmanned Aerial System (UAV) to the community on Monday.
The press conference featured Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond, HCSO Detective and UAV Pilot, Richard Whaley, Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston, and field interviews from HCSO Detective and UAV Pilot, Marty Dunn.
Officials said, "The HCSO’s UAS fleet will assist law enforcement in support of public safety missions to include, but not limited to, gathering photographic and video evidence over crime and traffic accident scenes, explosive ordinance disposal (EOD) missions, response to hazardous materials spills, search and rescue missions, public safety, life preservation missions, gathering photographic and video images over disaster and fire scenes, and training missions.
"Historically, law enforcement has had the ability to have an aerial view with manned aircraft, but this is usually limited to large agencies and is very costly. Most agencies with air operations can expect to pay approximately $350 or more per hour to operate a fixed or rotor wing aircraft. Due to the cost prohibitive nature of having fixed or rotary wing aircraft, the HCSO has chosen to go with UAS as they are much more cost efficient to operate.
"The technology used in our UAS division is civilian based and is appropriately limited. For example, our UAS equipment does not allow the HCSO to see through walls, listen to conversations, monitor cell phones, etc.
"Nationally and state wide case law has been established that guides our use and there is no effort here to use Unmanned Aerial Systems to circumvent well established fourth amendment protections.
"Images collected with the use of this technology are handled and retained within industry standards, consistent with images collected with any camera by law enforcement, and are subject to professional standards and codes of conduct including TCA code 39-13-609, the Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act (use of drones to gather evidence or information).
"The HCSO is proud to have this modern, life-saving technology and looks forward to having this resource available to help serve and protect the citizens of Hamilton County."
The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office has been cleared to begin using a drone in police and rescue work.
Sheriff Jim Hammond said Marty Dunn went through 40 hours of training to become a drone pilot. He will also utilize a co-pilot when the drone is in use, it was stated.
The sheriff said the drone can be operated for 14 times less than calling in a helicopter.
He said it could also be used in SWAT situation and for gathering video evidence.
The department has authorization for use from the FAA.