Commercial Drones PilotsLake Sheriff’s Office fleet of pricey drones are used to save lives

July 27, 2021by helo-10

LEESBURG — The Lake County Sheriff’s Office mini-air force may be flying over your neighbor right now. 

But don’t worry: The 14 helicopter drones are not armed with missiles or bombs.

“We use them for intelligence gathering and defensive assets,” said LCSO Sgt. Chris Stevens. “They give incident commanders real-time information.”

More importantly, they are life-savers — literally. 

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How the drones are used

One of the most dramatic uses of the remote-controlled devices occurred in the case of an armed man in the woods threatening suicide.

Stevens, who’s in charge of the unit that was activated last August, used the infrared camera to spot the man in a tree. He could see the man’s car parked nearby. When he heard the drone, he gave up and walked toward deputies to surrender.

“I was going to start shooting,” the man said. His plan was to engage in what police call “suicide by cop.”

“Using a drone is cheating,” he told the deputies.

If there was any doubt about their usefulness, it ended that day.

The drones have also rescued people lost in the woods, hovering over them until they can lead them to safety, Stevens said.

Stevens has also aided firefighters by flying over a large area and pointing out the hot spots.

The military has used big drones for some time, most famously in Iraq and Afghanistan, where they are armed and can blast terrorists before they know what hit them.

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There is more to being a drone pilot than just buying a machine and flying in your backyard. It can be that simple, but most of us will need to understand some drone laws before we try to take to the sky.


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