Sheriff Drone Safely Locates Missing Virginia Man

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Sheriff Drone Safely Locates Missing Virginia Man

Loudoun County, VA – December 18, 2017 –A 92-year-old hunter lost in a heavily wooded area of Shenandoah County was located safe in just 20 minutes after the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) deployed the agency’s Small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS) to assist local authorities in the search. This is the first successful use of the LCSO sUAS, commonly referred to as a drone, since the implementation of the new technology in September.

Members of the LCSO Search and Rescue Team were contacted early Sunday morning by the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office to assist in a search for a missing Shenandoah County man. Seven members of the team responded to the scene and utilized thermal imagers and the sUAS to search the area. The drone was launched at 9:30 a.m. and around 9:50 a.m. the subject was visually located. The search teams on the ground were provided coordinates for the man’s location and were able to locate him safe and sound.  “This new technology allows our deputies to more efficiently search for missing persons, especially those in the Project Lifesaver Program, and bring them home safe. We are pleased we were able to assist Shenandoah County and safely return this man to his family,” said Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman.

The LCSO was the first in Virginia and the sixth agency in the United States to have a drone equipped with a Project Lifesaver antenna. The Project Lifesaver program is an electronic based locating system for people with medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Autism, or other conditions, that have a tendency to wander from home and become lost. Project Lifesaver clients are equipped with a wristband transmitter that emits an automatic locating signal. If the client becomes lost, the specially trained deputies with the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Team will now use the sUAS, equipped with the Project Lifesaver payload, to help locate the client.

The LCSO sUAS is also enabled to carry a payload of infrared and high resolution cameras to assist in search and rescue operations. Members of the LCSO Search and Rescue Team who operate the sUAS are licensed pilots through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The sUAS allows members of the LCSO Search and Rescue Team to search remote locations in the immediate area.  Members of the agency who operate the sUAS are licensed pilots through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Per the Code of Virginia, the sUAS may only be deployed by law enforcement without a warrant when operating for the purpose of search and rescue and related training.