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Case Study: Albany County Sheriff’s Office UAS Program

July 17, 2017



 “The service you provided us was outstanding and greatly appreciated. I would highly recommend your service to anyone.” – Inspector Lee Bormann, Albany County Sheriff’s Office Critical Incident Emergency Management Unit Commander


When a 2-year-old child went missing in March, the Albany County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) deployed a UAS to aid in the search.

In May, the Sheriff’s Office used their drones to assist in a fire scene investigation.

Unmanned aerial systems (UAS), or drones, offer numerous benefits for public safety and the Albany County Sheriff’s Office has experienced these benefits firsthand.

Sheriff Craig D. Apple, Sr. stated, “It’s technology that can save lives. Providing real time air-to-ground video and thermal imaging for fire fighters, search and rescue missions, situational awareness, fugitive apprehension, traffic investigation, disasters and most importantly operational safety. It puts eyes on locations before you risk personnel.”

The Albany County Sheriff’s Office began planning, researching, and developing their UAS program about two years ago. The ACSO wanted to use UAS for a wide variety of operations such as search and rescue missions and emergency situations.

The ACSO reached out to UAS THERMALS® to acquire a turn-key aerial infrared system. In January, the department used money seized from criminals to purchase two DJI Inspire 1 drones equipped with high-resolution cameras. One of the cameras purchased, the Zenmuse XT powered by FLIR, is a thermal imaging camera that can provide precise temperature measurements. The Zenmuse XT is especially useful to detect heat sources, like people, in search and rescue situations.

Currently, the ACSO conducts 8 or more hours of flight training each month and has three FAA certified pilots on staff. The department plans to have four to six certified pilots in the future.


Since implementing their UAS program, the ACSO has had ten calls for service, including the following:

  • Missing person search Poestenkill Gorge, Troy, NY.
  • Missing 2-year-old child search at the request of Schodack Police Department.
  • Fire Scene at the request of Fuller Rd. Fire Department California Ave. Towne Tower.
  • Flood Mapping for spring flooding of Normanskil Creek.
  • Fire Scene Investigation at the request of Shaker Rd. Fire Department 577 Shaker Rd.
  • Animal Abuse Investigation at the request of CART 745 Sickle Hill Rd. Berne, NY.
  • Perimeter Security status check of the Albany County Correctional Facility.
  • Fire Scene Investigation at the request of NYS OFPC Fire 44 Creamery Rd. Westerlo, NY.
  • GIS mapping of new housing development off Hilton Rd. Voorheesville, NY. for CAD updates.
  • PIAA scene reconstruction /documentation Colehill & Woodstock Rd. Berne, NY.


The Albany County Sheriff’s Office is leading the way with UAS technology and is one of the first Sheriff’s Offices in New York to deploy a UAS program with these specific capacities.


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