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Drone Unit

Drone Unit

Our Drone Unit began in April 2019 and since that time, our drone program has gradually grown.  So far, in 2019, we've doubled our number of Drone Pilots to 8, added a M200 with XT2(64)/Z30 along with a Mavic Dual Enterprise

Drone Equipment

With a limited budget, we try to blend functionality, cost and performance.  So far, we have successfully walked that tight rope and created a Drone unit equipped to address most SAR aerial needs.  Below is a snapshot of our inventory:

Primary Drones

- One M200 w/Crystal Sky w/FLIR Zemuse XT2 (640) and Z30, 10 TB55's


- Two DJI Inspire1 V2's with 1 Flir Zemnuse XT (640) 2 Z3's, 2 X3's, 10 Batteries - These affordable, yet durable UAV's do all we need and then some.  With these units compatibility with the Zenmusr XT, they provide another night time option for us.  In addition, both are stored in flight mode, with one in a custom backpack for wilderness deployments.  With 14 batteries on-hand and numerous chargers/inverters ready, we can stay aerial for an extended period of time with the Inspire 1, V2.


- One DJI Mavic Pro - This super small drone is owned by one of our Part 107 pilots but he added it to our inventory for deployment.  This unit can be placed in any backpack and launched almost anywhere.  The maneuverability, camera resolution, zoom etc make it a go to drone for quick deployments where FLIR isn't needed.  


- One DJI Mavic Dual Enterpis w/FLIR/PA/Spotlight 

Training Drones

- One DJI Phantom 3 - The DJI Phantom 3 was our first ever drone purchase, back in 2015 when we had contemplated this program.  Insert a 4 year delay and now the Phantom 3 is our primary training.  Since the drone itself has an almost identical controller as the Inspire and the same maneuverability, it's a natural trainer for our up and coming inspire pilots.

- One Yuneec Typhoon 4G - This drone was a donation by Amazon and it our beginner drone.  Once someone can fly this, they can them move to the Phantom 3 and eventually the Inspire1 V2's.

One Inspire 1 V2 - We took one of our Inspire's out of flight rotation and placed it into our cache of training drones.  We allow Drone Pilots to  check out this until along with the ones noted above.  When deployed, our pilots bring this drone to active searches should it be needed.


Drone Pilots





Chuck Allen - Chuck, a retired Army Veteran has recently got into drones as a hobby.  Our newest PIC, Chuck passed his Part 107 examination in January 2019.  Chuck looks forward to piloting our drones when time permits

Melanie Ballew - Melanie passed her Part 107 examination in July 2018 and since that time, she has flown when life permitted.  Melanie, one of our more active members, is also a mother of 3 and managers her farm during the day.  Therefore, time can be of short supply.

Paul Barriage - Paul passed his Part 107 exam in May 2018 and heads up the drone program.  Paul has his own drone and keeps our two trainers for his Saturday training sessions.  When Paul isn't piloting drones, he a Scout Master and active Community Volunteer.


Robbie Swofford - Robbie was the first in our group to pass the Part 107 exam in April 2019.  Robbie serves as the backup for when the primary drone pilots aren't available. 

John Somero - John delved into drones and photographty as a hobby since he is semi-retired.  John has been a liscensed pilot for 50 years, an avid drone hobbyist since 2015, and got his Part 107 liscense in 2017.  In 2010, John and his wife volunteered in Haiti following the devasting earthquake.  During that time his wife was on the ground assisting with recovery and John flew relief missions for almost 4 months.  Now, John does professional drone phtography/videography and volunteers with SCSAR in his spare time. 


Valerie VernetValerie joined SCSAR in 2019 after several years with SC Foothills SAR.  Valerie and her trailing dog Gracie recently achieved Level 2 Trailing Certification with AMPWDA.  Valerie also holds a Part 107 UAS Pilot’s License and is active on the drone unit.


Valerie has a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering (Go Gators!), and has a career in Gas Turbine Development.  She spent many years doing data analysis and control software for aviation Gas Turbine testing and is now writing modeling software for Power Plant turbines. 


Valerie enjoys a hobby farm with her husband, and visits with her daughter, son-in-law, and two grandchildren.  In addition to SAR, she loves back-country hiking and kayaking.

Edwin Gerrits - After a year in the dutch military, Edwin graduated in physical therapy  in Haarlem, The Netherlands. He has been living in Fletcher NC since 2000. He works as a physical therapist in an out-patient setting in Asheville. He first became involved with K9 SAR through his wife, Lucie Belzil,  in 2017. He then joined SCSAR after he obtained his drone pilot license in July 2019. He is currently developing a small drone business “Skybound imaging”. He has participated in the Dupont Experience mountain bike SAR.

Edwin enjoys mountain biking,  hiking, kayaking and traveling in his diy converted van.

David Hartman - David Hartman joined SCSAR in 2021. His focus is on K9 handling. He and his wife Mary have a Czech German Shepherd, Ada, who has been training as a trailing dog. Ada earned her Level 1 through Georgia K9, and will be certifying with other agencies in the near future. David is also a Part 107 drone pilot and works with the drone team and ground teams. 


David has a Bachelor’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering from Georgia Tech, and a Master’s in Business. Mary and David both spent careers in Computer Science, specializing in cloud computing software. David is an active light aircraft pilot and also volunteers as a SAR mission pilot. 

Carol Ann Birtcil


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