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The Danville Life Saving Crew will now use small unmanned aircrafts to help assist in search and rescue missions. Five Danville Life Saving Crew members spent 40 hours in Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) ground school through Piedmont Virginia Community College. The intense coursework taught members about Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations, flight operations, human factors and radio communication. This prepared them for their FAA Remote Pilot Certificate exam.

On Friday, July 28, students participated in the field portion of the UAS flight training. The five Danville Life Saving Crew members, alongside Pittsylvania County Sheriff Mike Taylor and five members of his Sheriff’s Office, showcased their flight skills at Dan Daniel Memorial Park.

Drones, classified by the FAA as small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS), are becoming an integral part of search and rescue missions. Drones allow public safety first responders to better evaluate the situation, view the scene from above and get into small areas where it may be difficult for responders to travel safely and in a timely manner.

“We’re really excited. These small unmanned aircraft systems are amazing pieces of technology that will offer us information at emergency scene size ups that will assist us in deploying our personnel and equipment in a safe and timely manner,” DLSC Special Operations Captain Scott Campbell said. “We’ve been researching and planning for our UAS Program for over three years. In the past, we've had to rely on helicopters or fixed wings from other agencies to assist us in our search and rescue missions.”

DLSC Assistant Director Bryan Fox added, “We are committed to investing in the most up-to-date equipment and training to serve Danville and Pittsylvania County. These small unmanned aerial systems will be utilized during search and rescue missions, such as our Swift Water and Dive Team responses. They will also be available for mutual aid request by nearby agencies and state responses.”

PVCC Remote Pilot Training Course was taught by Darren Goodbar, assistant professor at PVCC and UAS coordinator of response programs for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. Students in the class will take a written exam within 90 days to receive their FAA certification.

“I'm thankful for our Board and Crew members who have wholeheartedly supported us in the project,” Campbell said.

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