Tuscaloosa Co. Sheriff’s Dept. replaces helicopter unit with drones

Published: Apr. 29, 2022 at 9:47 AM CDT
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TUSCALOOSA CO, Ala. (WBRC) - Big changes are ahead for one unit inside the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office. Administrators call it a cost saving measure that also allows them to be more flexible and respond faster to certain emergencies.

The department is grounding helicopters and replacing them with drones. Six months of planning is going into effect right now. Deputies are training how to fly drones this week. When it’s over, at least 8 drones will be placed in the vehicles of supervisors in the patrol division.

Chief Loyd Baker said operating and maintaining the two helicopters cost several hundred thousand dollars a year. Depending on the size, they can buy a drone for $4,000-$6,000 each.

The department’s SWAT Team and the Tuscaloosa Violent Crimes Unit are also getting drones. A brand-new mobile drone command center was built for the switchover. Baker told WBRC deputies can use drones the same way as helicopters to find people. “You know the faster that you can get an aerial up, the less time you can cover distance. So, it helps us catch the bad guys and find the good guys,” Baker explained. Baker added, there was also a duplication of services with the Tuscaloosa Police Department also having helicopters. The Sheriffs Office is giving its two helicopters and thousands of dollars of equipment to TPD. But the Sheriff’s Department can call on the police department to use a helicopter when needed.


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