The Smith County Sheriff's Office operates a small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS), one of many public safety tools available to officers in an ongoing effort to keep Smith County residents and visitors safe. This web page has been developed to provide information about the sUAS unit.
The Small Unmanned Aerial System or sUAS can be used in a variety of public safety operations such as helping to find missing individuals, searching for suspects who are actively fleeing from the police and providing assistance in assessing damages and losses from natural disasters. The sUAS can also be used to take forensic photographs of complex crime scenes.
The sUAS can operate anywhere within the geographic boundaries of the county. Pilots must coordinate flights in accordance with the local governing air space manager. The sUAS must be flown within visual line of sight of the officer pilot. Once a defined incident perimeter has been established, the officer pilot can launch the aircraft.
For law enforcement agencies, smaller unmanned aircraft technology provides an alternative to traditional aviation. Unmanned or remotely piloted aircraft systems are much cheaper to own and operate than traditional fixed-wing planes and piloted helicopters.
Maintaining an individual’s privacy and protecting the civil liberties of all persons is of paramount importance to the Smith County Sheriff's Office. The department is bound by federal law and the laws of the State of Texas that direct search and seizures. The small unmanned aerial system is no different than a Deputy in an elevated position. In order for a Deputy to be present and searching for someone or something, the Deputy must have a search warrant or a judicially- recognized exception to a search warrant. The same requirements apply to the operation of the sUAS.