Sheriff Robert Maciol & Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente Unveil New Unmanned Aircraft System Unit

Earlier today, Oneida County Sheriff Robert Maciol and members of the Sheriff’s Office, along with Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. and Oneida County Aviation Commissioner Chad Lawrence proudly announced the formation of a new unit within the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office that will be utilized to enhance public safety within and around Oneida County.

The Oneida County Sheriff’s UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) Unit was unveiled today at a press conference held at Griffiss International Airport in Rome. The Sheriff’s Office will be able to use this new resource to protect the lives and property of citizens and first responders as well as being able to detect possible dangers that could not otherwise be seen from the ground. ​

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente and Oneida County Aviation Commissioner Chad Lawrence for their support and assistance from the time that this was just an idea up until today when that idea became a reality”, said Oneida County Sheriff Robert Maciol. “I would also like to thank Chief Deputy Jon Owens and the other members of this unit for their hard work and commitment as this unit was being developed”.

The Sheriff’s UAS Unit can support any first responder in many types of hazardous incidents that would benefit from an aerial perspective. Additionally, the UAS would have suitable uses in assisting incident commanders with decision making, locating missing persons, search & rescue operations, clearing buildings that may be too dangerous for personnel to enter, and accident scene reconstruction & documentation as well as many other tasks that can best be accomplished from the air in an efficient, safe, and effective manner. The Sheriff’s Office UAS Unit will be available to respond 24 hours a day at the request of any public safety agency.

Currently, Sheriff Maciol has assigned five sworn members of the Sheriff’s Office to this unit and they are all fully trained and each possess FAA certifications for their Remote Pilot’s License.

In addition and pursuant to strict agency policy, every UAS operator from the Sheriff’s Office will never invade a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy when operating the UAS. The UAS unit Commander, operators, and observers will have the protection of citizens civil rights and reasonable expectations of privacy as a key component of any decision made when deploying and operating the UAS.​

In an effort to insure full transparency and trust of the public, the Sheriff’s Office policy specifically notes strict restrictions on the use of the Sheriff’s UAS’s that include:

• UAS will not be used to conduct random surveillance activities.

• UAS will not be used to target a person based solely on individual characteristics, such as, but not limited to, race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, disability, gender or sexual orientation.

• UAS will not be used to harass, intimidate or discriminate against any individual or group.

• UAS will not be used to conduct personal business of any type.

• The UAS shall be deployed and used only to support official law enforcement and public safety missions.

• The UAS shall not be operated in an unsafe manner or in violation of FAA rules.

• The UAS may be used for training and educational purposes.

• The UAS can only be used for deployments approved by the Sheriff.

• The UAS shall not be weaponized.

The Sheriff’s UAS Unit is equipped with eight drones that include the Mavic Air for indoor applications & confined areas and the Mavic Pro for enhanced aerial coverage & stability. Currently, the Sheriff’s UAS Unit is funded through the Sheriff’s annual operating budget, along with continuously seeking both state and federal funding opportunities.

“The addition of this UAS Unit to the Sheriff’s Office will make Oneida County a safer place,” said Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente, Jr. “These drones will be piloted by highly-trained deputies who can use them to aerially assess such things as crime scenes, vehicular accidents, natural disasters, hazardous spills and search and rescue operations. Being that Griffiss International Airport’s UAS Test Site serves as the industry’s epicenter for research and innovation, it’s fitting that this law enforcement method is being utilized in Oneida County. I applaud Sheriff Maciol for his leadership in bringing a new level of efficiency and effectiveness to his office and for placing the utmost importance on privacy in the process.”

In addition to offering additional details on the program and introducing some of the Sheriff’s Office members who are assigned to the new unit, Sheriff Maciol also had the unit members provide a demonstration of the UAS’s for those in attendance at this morning’s event.