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Emergency Responders Learning How to Use Drones in Albemarle County

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Drone being flown around King Family Vineyards Drone being flown around King Family Vineyards
Emergency responders participating in the second annual Public Safety UAS Conference at King Family Vineyards. Emergency responders participating in the second annual Public Safety UAS Conference at King Family Vineyards.
Drone being flown around King Family Vineyards Drone being flown around King Family Vineyards
ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) -

Law enforcement and first responders are gathering in Albemarle County to learn how to use unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or drones, in emergencies.

Piedmont Virginia Community College put together the second annual Public Safety UAS Conference at King Family Vineyards.

Roughly 300 emergency personnel from state, local, and federal agencies are getting hands-on experience piloting drones during the conference. They're also learning how to develop policies for UAS use.

“More agencies are adopting UAS technologies and applying it to the immediate response, and the focus this year is integrating past the immediate response and getting the information to the people who need it,” organizer Darren Goodbar said.

The conference has brought personnel from 32 states, and as far away as New Zealand. They are being given the chance to experience different training UAS scenarios: from locating a downed aircraft, to finding a barricaded shooter.

Caroline County Fire Rescue started using a drone last year after attending this conference. The department now has 13 trained pilots who have sent in drones to search for missing kayakers, and assess the size of brush fires.

“Having the resource locally to get up and get the eyes in the sky quickly and safely and down make a huge difference,” said Caroline County Fire Rescue Deputy Fire Chief Mark Garnett.

Goodbar said only three state agencies were using drones last year. Now, 30 agencies have them.

First responders say unmanned aircraft systems are faster and safer than humans to send in to dangerous situations.

The conference continues through Wednesday, and will include a keynote address from the UAS program executive for the Department of Homeland Security.