Ga. County May Deploy Drone Fleet

July 15, 2015

Photo courtesy of Olaeris
Photo courtesy of Olaeris

Macon Bibb County, Ga., is one step closer to a $5.7 million deal to add drones to its police fleet. On July 14, a five-member committee of the county commission and Mayor Robert Reichert unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Olaeris to install a county-wide network of unmanned aircraft to perform routine, robotic emergency response.

The company provides aerial electric virtual assist (AEVA) devices that are "very different" from drones, according to a release from Olaeris.

The unmanned aircraft "was engineered to undergo conventional FAA air worthiness type class certification like a commercial helicopter or jet so she's meant to fly safely in controlled airspace," according to the company.

Upon an incoming 911 call, AEVA automatically launches, flies beyond line of sight, and navigates to the incident without human assistance, usually arriving within 90 seconds or less. The device transmits encrypted video to ground responders so they can see what’s happening while they’re on the way to the scene. This allows ground responders to adjust their response to the situation.  

These will be used to support all Sheriff’s Department, Fire Department, 911, and Emergency Management Agency response services and allow these departments to share the technology, according to Olaeris.

The flying-saucer shaped devices are eight feet in diameter. The $5.7 million contract would include a five-year service agreement covering encrypted bandwidth and data management, training, certification, maintenance and repair, a five-year unlimited warranty, and a written guarantee that no further costs will be incurred, the company stated. The county would pay $96,000 per month for five years, plus nominal interest charges, according to the MOU.

Olaeris has partnered with Haeco Americas, an aviation company with existing facilities in the county to manufacture, maintain, and support its AEVA fleets. The company plans to integrate three unmanned aerial system fleets simultaneously in three states.

On June 21, the full nine-member commission will make the final decision on whether to accept the MOU. As the five committee members have already voted in favor of unmanned aircraft, it’s likely the commission will approve it.

It may take up to two years before the devices are ready, according to the county clerk. The county is not obligated to pay until the system is fully operational.

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