In a new government outreach program, Sheriff Tim Hutchison signed Knox County up to receive surplus high tech equipment from the United States government. The program provides equipment from all branches of the federal government, and any state or local government agency can apply for the program.
The Knox County Sheriff’s Department is not the first local agency to receive equipment. The Knoxville Urbanist Group
|This Coast Guard cutter was delivered to Gettysvue.|
received three tons of photographic plates, while the Gettysvue Neighborhood Watch received a Coast Guard cutter to help catch the people who keep soaping their fountains.
This week, the Sheriff’s Department received a drone similar to the one used by the CIA to destroy a car full of terrorists in Yemen last month. The department received an earlier model that is not quite as accurate or reliable, but is capable of supporting the Department in a wide array of activities.
Already, the drone has been patrolling I-40 between downtown and Watt Road looking for speeders. It has attempted to launch missiles at the speeders it detected using its current analog devices. So far it has managed only to create new pot holes on Perimeter Park Road, but the businesses there have hardly noticed. They have also equipped it with a new digital speed detection device that can detect a motorcycle exceeding the posted speed limit from an altitude of 45,000 feet. They have ordered a module that will also allow it to detect speeding cars as well.
|The drone, shortly after UPS delivered it to an undisclosed East Knoxville location.|
The drone is capable of detecting drunk drivers from an altitude of 32,000 feet by a state-of-the art infrared breathalizer. It can detect large marijuana fields from 49,000 feet and smaller fields from as little as 200 feet. Once modifications are completed, it will be able to accurately place parking tickets on vehicles from 13,000 feet.
Convicts on loan from Brushy Valley Prison helped build the runway and hanger for the drone at an undisclosed location in East Knoxville at a moderate cost to taxpayers. A small outfit of 15 people are required to maintain and program the drone, and 4 remote pilots are kept on call 24 hours a day just in case of any malfunctions. Many of these workers are also able to work on the fleet of helicopters, but the technologies are so different that two distinct crews are still required.
Taxpayers will only need to support the costs of maintaining and upgrading the drone, as the drone itself was free from the federal government. Early estimates are that it will cost anywhere from $500,000 to $1,500,000 annually to maintain, but additional ticket revenue it will generate may cover a large portion of those costs.