Drones taking search and rescue missions to the next level

Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office is using drones for search and rescue

[Editor’s Note: Two officers will be attending training next week to learn how to operate the drones.]

This post originally appeared on http://www.wbrc.com/story/33450313/drones-taking-search-rescue-missions-to-the-next-level.

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) –

State-of-the-art technology is helping first responders in Montgomery County save lives.

The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office is using drones to find missing people suffering from cognitive disorders.

A company called Viper Drones is working with the Alzheimer’s-Autism Outreach Group (AOG) in an effort to provide drones with thermal imaging to law enforcement agencies across Alabama.

The goal of the project is to locate people with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, autism or any other special needs who are reported missing.

“When people with those health conditions disappear, time is of the essence,” AOG officials said.

One of the systems is on its way to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.

On Friday, Viper Drones conducted a hands-on demonstration in East Montgomery with members of the agency to show them the equipment and how it works.

The company supplies drones and thermal imaging systems to a variety of industries and the law enforcement community.

“The main intent is to quickly deploy and find Alzheimer’s and Autism patients that have gotten out and are lost. It helps them conduct the search and rescue missions much faster. It’s much more cost efficient and a much more thorough job because they can be there on site a lot quicker than deploying a search party or launching a helicopter or fixed wing aircraft,” said Viper Drones owner Andy Beck.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, six in 10 people with dementia will wander. Alzheimer’s erodes the memory so a person may not remember their name or address. They can become disoriented, even in familiar places, as well as acting combative once approached.

“For Montgomery County we have a large number of Alzheimer’s patients within the county. From time to time, they have a tendency to wander away from home and we’re called out to try to track them down and find them. The conditions are usually in wooded areas with dense brush. This equipment will allow us to fly over and try to locate them a lot faster. A lot of times, they can’t respond to us when we call. It will allow us to see them, whether they are mobile or not,” said Major Jon Briggs with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.

The Dallas County Sheriff’s Office was one of the first agencies to get one of the drones. Deputies are working to get certifications and flight training to launch their system in the field in the near future.

Montgomery County deputies will also be training to use the equipment over the next few weeks.

“We have two officers that will be going to training next week to fully operate things and train others on how to operate the equipment,” Briggs said. “It’s a fantastic piece of equipment and we’re going to be able to utilize this. It’s going to help the citizens of Montgomery County greatly.”

“Speed oftentimes makes the largest difference so if you can quickly get something out in the field, that’s what helps save lives and find people,” Beck added. “It’s easy to run so that one officer can operate the unit itself. It’s state of the art technology that unrivaled by anyone else in the world.”

“The Drone Project” is an ongoing AOG initiative.

AOG has worked to create a network throughout Alabama to provide transmitter bracelets or wrist transmitters to dementia patients through Project Lifesaver.

The organization will be hosting a Super Tailgate Party to benefit “The Drone Project” on Saturday, Nov. 19, starting at 5 p.m. The event is being held to raise funds for the drone that will be presented to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.

The event will be held at Riverwalk Stadium.

Law enforcement agencies interested in the drone technology can find more information by clicking here.

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