Hamilton County sheriff unveils $19K drone system - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Hamilton County sheriff unveils $19K drone system

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HAMILTON COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -

Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond unveiled the department's new Unmanned Aircraft System Monday. 

The UAS or drones will be used in situations like investigating suspected bombs, missing people, or documenting damage from natural disasters. 

The use of UAS in law enforcement is a growing trend nationwide.  More than 80 law enforcement agencies, colleges and other government agencies across the nation have been granted or applied for permits to fly UAS, according to FAA records.

HCSO began the process for FAA qualification in December of 2014. Since then, hundreds of hours of training and flight time (over 160 training missions) have been spent to obtain an FAA Certificate of Waiver (COA).     

Five deputies are trained and certified to use the department's six drones, making this the first system used by local law enforcement. 

Hammond said he's keeping the public's right to privacy in mind. 

"This is not about spying on people or looking in their bedroom windows. This is all about following the law and making sure this is supportive of good policing. What we gather in evidence will be stored just like all of our video evidence and will be stored in the proper way," he said. 

The district attorney will help with any legal concerns. 

"It would be that same legal analysis. They call with a question and say, 'We would like to use it in these scenarios, what is your opinion in how the law relates in this particular scenario?' But there's no blanket rule to give and they don't expect that. It's just generally a case by case analysis depending on the facts of the case," Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston said. 

Right now, the drones can only fly during daylight in clear weather. They can take pictures and record video but can't see through walls or record sound. 

Deputies also have to follow state and federal laws when using them which are different compared to the general public. 

The sheriff's office plans to hold classes to help educate the public of flying drones. They have not scheduled the dates yet. 

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