Drone program aids law enforcement rescue efforts

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Print this page by Joan Tupponce
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“It’s standard procedure now to use drones for search and rescue,”
says Master Deputy Matt Devaney. Photo by Stephen Gosling

A Falls Church-based company has been recognized for its involvement in a program using drones for rescue operations.

Evans Inc. won the Pro­gram of the Year award at the 2018 Greater Washington Government Contractor Awards for assistance it provided to the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office.

The sheriff’s office wanted to use a drone in its Project Lifesaver program, a rescue project used to search for missing people wearing tracking devices.

PropelUAS, an Evans division, guided the sheriff’s office through Federal Aviation Administration regulations in the use of drones.

PropelUAS’ training enabled deputies involved in Project Lifesaver to obtain commercial drone licenses.

The company also developed and wrote applications for waivers allowing the drone to be used at night.

“The community element and our involvement with projects in the community is our mission,” says Tara Stear­man, senior unmanned systems consultant at Evans and also part of the PropelUAS team. “We focus on what you need to know and how to be a safe operator in the national aerospace system.” 

The Loudoun Sheriff’s Office was the first in Virginia and the sixth agency in the United States to have a drone equipped with the Project Lifesaver antenna, which communicates with a tracking device. The county’s drone program received a 2018 Achievement Award from the Virginia Association of Counties.

A few months after launching the program, the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Team rescued a 92-year-old hunter missing in a heavily wooded area in Shenandoah County. The hunter was found safe just 20 minutes after the team deployed its drone. 

“Our drone is a tool that goes out on every call we go out on,” says Loudoun Master Deputy Matt Devaney. “It’s standard procedure now to use drones for search and rescue.”

To have “real-life experiences of our hard work making a difference in the community is really rewarding,” says Stear­man of PropelUAS.

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