Hamilton County (Ohio) Sheriff Charmaine McGuffey announced this week that the department would sell its two MD Helicopters MD500s—which she called “flying dinosaurs”—and replace them with drone-equipped patrol cars.
McGuffey said the department’s pair of helicopters cost $3 million per year to operate, excluding capital costs. The replacement drones are estimated to cost $20,000 each and are equipped with infrared camera systems. The department already operates seven drones and plans to add eight more to its fleet. McGuffey made the announcement in conjunction with her appeal for $15 million in additional funding for additional personnel and equipment.
The department upgraded its MD500E to a MD530F in 2017. It had been flying the helicopter since 1989 and it had logged more than 10,000 flight hours. It also operates a Notar-equipped MD520N. The aviation unit is staffed by two full-time pilots and two tactical flight officers. Hamilton County encompasses 240 square miles in the greater Cincinnati area.