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FAA expands operating distance for law enforcement drone. Forsyth Sheriff's Office can now fly 2 miles from base.

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The Federal Aviation Administration is allowing the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office to fly its drone beyond its pilot’s visual line of sight in Clemmons, the sheriff’s office said Thursday.

The FAA has approved the sheriff’s office application to operate its drone beyond the pilot’s normal visual range, expanding the drone’s operating distance to 2 miles from the launch location, the sheriff’s office said.

The drone is part of the sheriff’s office’s commitment to keeping Forsyth County residents safe by using 21st-century technology, Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough Jr. said.

“We are excited about the recent approval of the FAA BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) waiver,” Kimbrough said. “We look forward to continuing our endeavors with the DFR (drone first responder) program in Clemmons and hopefully expanding the program into other parts of the county soon.”

The drone, which is based at the Village Inn in Clemmons, will be flown in the area of Lewisville-Clemmons Road and Interstate 40, the sheriff’s office said.

Before receiving FAA approval for beyond visual line of sight, the drone typically flew up to 1½ miles from its base.

The sheriff’s office officially launched its first responder drone program in late October at the Forsyth County Public Safety Center. The program began on Oct. 3 so that deputies could see how it worked.

The drone is dispatched to an emergency location at the same time a deputy is sent. The drone gets to the location first and relays what it sees to the responding deputies.

Under the FAA’s regulations, the drone’s pilot must know the unmanned aircraft’s location, determine the drone’s attitude, altitude and direction of flight, observe the airspace for other air traffic or hazards and determine that the drone doesn’t endanger people’s lives or property, the sheriff’s office said.

The drone costs about $27,000. It is one of six drones that the sheriff’s office owns, Kimbrough has said. Members of the sheriff’s office’s drone team keep the others in their patrol cars for use around the county.

336-727-7299 @jhintonWSJ

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