Riverside County Sheriff's Dept. to use drones in search and rescue missions

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- Time is of the essence when it comes to search and rescue missions, and the Riverside County Sheriff's Department is looking to cut down on the time it takes to find people by using drones.

The Riverside County Sheriff's Department is the latest organization to consider using drones and this summer, the department is planning to use unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as UAVs, in its search and rescue operations.

"It is just a device to hopefully give us the ability to focus our search and rescue teams," said Chief Deputy Kevin Vest.

Just this week, search and rescue teams fanned out across the Idyllwild area after a San Diego man went missing during a hike.

The department used its helicopter in the search, but it isn't always available due to weather or other emergencies in the county.

The department is eyeing a Phoenix-M model drone by the Minnesota company Sentera.

Unlike hoover-type drones, it is fixed wing, which can stay up longer and travel farther.

It also comes with heat-sensing capabilities and a high-resolution camera.

"It could be we are looking for someone unconscious and lying on the ground under a tree, or something like that, so the ability to zoom in was very important to us," said Vest.

The law enforcement agency will try out the drone for a year before the county considers purchasing one.

If and when that happens, they assure the public the drones will be used solely for search and rescue missions.

The sheriff's department said it will begin field testing the drone in May.
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