NEWPORT — Sullivan County first responders could get a technology boost as the sheriff’s department is looking to start a drone program.
“Drones are here and everybody’s using them,” said Chief Deputy Jeremy Wilson. “But nobody on this side of the state has them.”
Sheriff John Simonds said a drone program could help law enforcement dealing with suspect searches, especially in the wooded areas of the county. It would also be a help looking for missing Alzheimer’s patients who might wander from their houses, or the county nursing home in Unity.
“I see many benefits to the program,” Simonds said.
Drones outfitted with video cameras and infrared capabilities can find people, and they can also be deployed for searches, active crime scene responses, fires, even significant traffic accidents for police and fire departments throughout the county, Simonds said.
Wilson is spearheading the program after he first sold Simonds on the idea. The one caveat Simonds has is that the program not use any taxpayer funds.
Wilson is currently applying for grants to cover the majority of the estimated $11,000 cost for getting two fully-equipped drones and training on drone maintenance and licensing. The Sheriff department deputies who fly the drones will need licenses, Wilson said.
Wilson said the drones will only be used when requested, and the use will be logged and recorded so that people can know the devices are being used appropriately.
If the grant funding does not cover the whole cost of the program, Wilson hopes to raise donations, especially from some of the bigger businesses in the region. Wilson said the cost of the proposed drone program is modest, compared to some of the devices on the market. That said, the devices have the capability to help in major ways, according to Wilson.
“If it saves one life, it’s worth it,” Wilson said.