ROME, NY - It’s been about a year in the making, but the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office has officially launched an Unmanned Aircraft Unit.
The aircraft will be used for any type of hazardous incidents that would benefit from an aerial perspective. Sheriff Rob Maciol talked about one of the biggest obstacles to overcome: their policy surrounding the use of the drones.
"We wanted to ensure the public that these pieces of equipment were going to be used, obviously to keep the public safe, but at the same time we want to ensure the public that we’re not using these pieces of technology to invade their privacy, or to ever violate any of their constitutional rights."
The Sheriff’s Office has two different types of drones. One is designed primarily for outdoor use, and one for indoor surveillance. Sending a drone into a house is much more cost effective and safer than risking the lives of police officers.
Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente discussed how these machines will likely be used for reoccurring problems as well.
"We’ve been plagued with incidents of flooding over the last couple years... and hese drones have come in so handy for us to look at the landscape, to see where the problem areas are."
There are five members from the Sheriff’s Office that are certified to fly the aircraft, but the sheriff expects to have another five members of his team become certified as the demand increases.
"We anticipate they’ll be some significant requests from other agencies to utilize this now that it’s here, so I want to be able to ensure that we’d be able to honor those requests."
The Sheriff’s Office does have one unit set up for infrared imaging to assist in finding missing persons, and they also expect to save time and money using them for accident reconstructions.
There are currently eight units in operation. The drones cost about $1,000 each.