SOMERVILLE, NJ – The Somerset County Sheriff's Office has purchased a drone system for use in search and rescue operations.
The purchase was funded from the Sheriff’s Drug Enforcement Association forfeiture account which consists of federal monies seized from cooperative investigations, according to Somerset County Sheriff Frank J. Provenzano.
The Project Lifesaver International Indago Unmanned Aerial Vehicle System drone system is a military-grade, quadrotor UAV designed specifically for the search and rescue of special-needs populations with cognitive disorders who are prone to the life-threatening behavior of wandering, including those with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, autism and Down syndrome.
“The Somerset County NJ Sheriff’s Office is the first public safety agency in the country to adopt the PLI Indago UAV System,” said Project Lifesaver International CEO and founder Gene Saunders. “This type of innovative thinking and planning shows the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office’s commitment to the special-needs community and their dedication to protecting all in Somerset County.”
The PLI Indago UAV System will aid the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office by substantially expanding search coverage while significantly decreasing search-and-rescue times. The system also will serve as an airborne asset and greatly improve the probability of a successful recovery across broad search areas.
“This is a win-win for the Sheriff’s Office and the residents of Somerset County for our agency to be able to assist the special-needs community with a tool of this significance,” Provenzano said. “The UAV system has greatly impacted search and rescue efforts in other parts of the country. We fully anticipate having the same positive results in our county during times of crisis when families need our services the most.”
Project Lifesaver is a program coordinated through the Somerset County Office on Aging & Disability Services and supported by the county Board of Chosen Freeholders. Families with loved ones at risk of wandering due to cognitive and learning disabilities contact the OOA&DS for an assessment that determines program eligibility, assists families in understanding their loved one’s condition, and provides information on programs and services for which they may be eligible.
Upon acceptance into the program, clients wear a personalized bracelet that emits a signal that aids the Sheriff’s Office in locating the individual in an expeditious manner, should the need arise.
“Project LifeSaver provides extra support to caregivers and families in order to keep their loved one in the community,” said Joanne Fetzko, OOA&DS executive director. “The hope is that the use of the UAV system will instill greater confidence in families, as it will improve the team’s ability to help save lives and fulfill the program’s mission of bringing loved ones home safely.
"Not only will the use of this equipment reduce search time and increase public safety, but it will do so without risking the safety of the rescue team and first responders, which is undeniably an invaluable benefit to the community,” she added.