An Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) drone demonstration was recently conducted at the Essex County Emergency Management Headquarters for the January meeting of the county Chiefs of Police Association. The exhibition was presented by officers from the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office where the technology is used in search and rescue operations.
Sheriff Fontoura stated that the aircraft system technology would be a key step at enhancing public safety and law enforcement in Essex County in the 21st century.
“These drone systems may be highly beneficial for law enforcement purposes,” Sheriff Fontoura said. “Their ability to carry out search and recuse operations, crime scene analysis, and special operations will continue to allow us to keep the residents of our county safe no matter what the circumstances.”
Typically, police UAS systems are fitted with optical zoom or thermal cameras. They are an affordable alternative to helicopter or airplane support, they can be used to monitor crowds for threat protection and they may be employed for advance mapping of an event at a critical infrastructure site. Video taken by UAS systems give investigators another angle they may have overlooked. UAS system are lightweight and average flight time is thirty minutes per battery.
“Based upon what we’ve seen today, UAS systems appear to be very beneficial to law enforcement. They can be used in places where it is too high to climb and they can be used in situations that may prove to be too dangerous to police officers. UAS could be utilized if a hiker gets lost, in water rescue and search operations or in traffic accident reconstructions,” noted North Caldwell Police Chief Mark Deuer, president of the Essex Chiefs Association.
The sheriff’s office and the municipal police departments will individually consider if UAS systems are appropriate and cost-effective for their respective departments.
Lost hikers found, swimmers rescued with a deployed floatation device, wildfires located from above. Headlines about emergency responders using small, unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) are increasingly common around the world, but the need for accurate, reliable information to inform the many decisions that must be made to implement this exciting new technology effectively can be hard to come by, and expensive.
Texas A&M now offers a five-hour, 0.5 CEU credit online course designed to enable emergency managers to make strategic decisions about starting a sUAS program. The course is unique in that it is not about flying, passing a Part 107 license, or using mapping software but rather about how to define missions for sUAS, train and equip for those missions, and understand the legal, regulatory, and community support ramifications. It specifically covers the types of missions that different small UAS have been used for, what are the practical considerations in buying a small UAS or working with a drone company, what kind of manpower and administrative impact sUAS will have, and best practices for training and deploying. The course distills lessons learned by the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue members’ deployments to more than 15 disasters, starting with Hurricane Katrina (2005) and including Fukushima Daiichi, as well as nearly 400 sorties at Hurricanes Harvey and Irma–all at the request of local agencies, and closely coordinated with existing assets. While aimed at emergency professionals, the course offers valuable insights for independent operators looking to serve emergency responders. The course can be taken online, or in conjunction with hands-on classes that are also being offered. The course costs $200, and is the first in an online certificate program being co-developed by Texas A&M Humanitarian Robotics and AI Laboratory and Florida State University Center for Disaster Risk Policy in conjunction with the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue, a nonprofit organization created to study and implement robotic technology in disaster and emergency response.
The Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue is a nonprofit corporation established in 2001 by Texas A&M, and is now an independent entity, the world’s leading organization in deploying, promoting, training, documenting, analyzing, and disseminating scientific knowledge about the use of unmanned systems for disasters. See crasar.org for more information or contact Dr. Robin Murphy, firstname.lastname@example.org.
In 2017, Fort Collins police launched drones to investigate serious and fatal crashes for the first time.
The program’s first flight was in August, and police used the technology seven times during the course of crash investigations last year.
The drones help police snap photos faster and open roads sooner, according to members of Fort Collins police CRASH team, which responds to serious crashes.
In the past, police had to close the affected road or intersection, use small yellow tents to mark evidence and collect measurements between the markers. They might place anywhere from 40 to 150 evidence tents.
That painstaking process took hours — sometimes more than six — during which frustrated motorists couldn’t drive through the area.
With the use of drones, police continue to mark evidence with tents but can expedite the process by snapping overhead photos and then calculating measurements after the scene has reopened.
Police will still spend several hours on scene examining evidence and taking close-up photographs, but the drone can help shave several hours off the process.
“At the scene, all we’re really doing with the drone is taking pictures. We can take those pictures and bring them back,” said officer Drew Jurkofsky, a CRASH team member trained in scene reconstruction.
“We’ll still spend two to three hours taking the measurements, but we do that (at the police station) instead of in the roadway.”
Police also said they close roads or intersections in serious cases but try to limit the closure.
“If you see us taking an entire intersection, it means it’s serious or at least it looks that way on face value,” said Sgt. Sara Lynd, who leads the CRASH team. “We try not to take anything that we don’t need.”
Police emphasize that closing a road protects officers on scene and protects evidence that would otherwise be lost under the tires of passing cars.
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“There’s a lot of evidence at a crash scene that isn’t readily apparent,” Jurkofsky said. “A lot of that evidence, if cars drive over it, it’s gone. It’s very transient.”
Drones won’t replace the rest of the investigative techniques police use, though.
“It’s not the end-all be-all,” said officer Tim Brennan, another member of the CRASH team. “There are limitations where you can fly” — such as in areas with dense foliage or power lines, and when the weather is bad. They also take more time when light is low and at night.
That being said, Fort Collins police anticipate that other agencies in the county will begin using drones more regularly in their own crash investigations because they act as a helpful tool in collecting more evidence.
Fort Collins Police Services, the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office, Loveland and Colorado State University police departments, Poudre Fire Authority, and Loveland Fire Rescue Authority collectively launched a regional unmanned aerial system program in late June 2017 to assist in investigations, including serious crashes and backcountry search and rescue operations.
The six participating agencies have a total of five drones, and each agency has a group of FAA-certified pilots. They’ve outlined polices, procedures, and privacy and safety information on larimeruas.com.
Reporter Cassa Niedringhaus covers breaking news for the Coloradoan. Follow her on Twitter: @CassaMN.
ST HELENS, Ore. — As he prepares to launch the mini 4 rotor helicopter in the parking lot of his St. Helens office, Oregon State Police trooper William Bush is very formal, following all the rules.
“We’re not pilots that are out there flying around casually,” he said.
There’s a pre-flight check, ground rules for operation, and information, mainly still pictures, that are is recorded with the help of different software.
One thing you don’t do here is call this piece of technology a “drone.” It’s an sUAS – small Unmanned Aircraft System.
Bush has been authorized to test the sUAS. He’s a member of OSP’s Collision Reconstruction Unit.
“The easiest way to say it is, we’re the ones that document the physical evidence,” he said. “And then there are tiers within the unit that are experts in its analysis.”
Until recently, the team has employed everything from simple technology like a tape measure, to photos and video, and a GPS-based surveying device to record data at crash scenes. It’s a process that can take anywhere from 45 minutes to several hours depending on how serious the crash is. They have to take time recording information because distance calculations matter in their work.
The sUAS flies along a planned out path scanning and capturing the photos which can eventually be rendered into a top down view or 3-D image of the scene. The technology has opened some new doors for investigators.
“We have a readout of everything that’s going on,” said Bush. The FAA and Oregon state statutes mandate the sUAS can only climb to 300 feet. Troopers have a five-day window once an investigation starts to fly the helicopter.
“Obviously people don’t want law enforcement in particular up in the air always looking, that’s not our purpose at all,” he said.
Troopers are working to expedite the investigation process.
The testing is being supported by a small grant, but the technology and associated software are changing too rapidly for OSP to make a full investment right now.
“It’s expanded use, we’re going to be taking those incremental steps, because we don’t want to make an investment that’s irresponsible with taxpayer money,” he said.
But the future is bright for this technology, and Bush believes the possibilities of its use are far-reaching.
“Watching it develop over the course of the next five years, I’m in a fortunate position to be able to be a part of it,” he said.
From the green hills of Northern Ireland to the sunny shores of Trinidad, police drones are on patrol – saving lives, pursuing bad guys and protecting borders.
Last week, the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board demonstrated nine recently purchased ELIX-XL quadcopters from Estonian drone company ELI Airborne Solutions deployed to protect the Baltic nation’s eastern border. The $600,000 drone squadron will also be used for search and rescue.
“The use of drones in the everyday work of the border guard creates even better possibilities for preventing, detecting and stopping border incidents,” Estonian Interior Ministry official Raivo Kuut told the media. “Whether it is an illegal border crossing, a rescue incident on a border body of water or a landscape search — the information gathered with the help of a done gives border guards additional possibilities for planning and executing their activities,” added state police official Helen Neider-Veerme.
Northern Ireland police launched drones last week to search for a 31-year-old missing man. Beatbox performer Michael Cullen was last seen Jan. 9 in the Cave Hill region near Belfast. His disappearance was described as “highly out of character.”
Last week, officers in Trinidad tracked down two suspects who reportedly fired shots before fleeing the scene in a stolen car. Using one of four year-old drones, police were able to gather real-time imagery of the car as it snaked through the streets of El Dorado. Thanks to the eye in the sky, police successfully detained two men, recovering a Lugar semi-automatic pistol and more than 180 grams of marijuana.
“We want to use these drones to ensure that police carry out their duties within the legal framework that governs the [national police],” a police official said.
Isle of Man
The Isle of Man is looking for some unmanned police assistance via drone. Police are seeking a drone facility to “provide a 24-hour call-out to assist with road traffic collisions, area searches and crime scene investigations,” according to news reports.
The program is part of an emerging tech strategy the constabulary announced two years ago and includes plans to add body cameras, license-plate recognition software and autonomous speed detectors.
The Victoria Police Department has not made any arrests related to stolen vehicles from Dale’s Fun Center, as of Sunday afternoon.
Officers are still investigating the crime and searching for vehicles that have not been recovered, said Sgt. Lee Lemmons, with the Victoria Police Department.
About $184,000 in stolen all-terrain vehicles were recovered Saturday morning in DeWitt County.
Between Thursday and Friday, unknown burglars broke into Dale’s Fun Center, 9802 N. Navarro St., and stole eight utility terrain vehicles, seven all-terrain vehicles and two Jet Skis with a combined estimated value of $200,000.
Six vehicles have not been recovered, and 11 were recovered Saturday morning. The recovered vehicles were found in a barn in northern DeWitt County on Dickinson Road, said Sheriff Carl Bowen, with the DeWitt County Sheriff’s Office. Deputies searched the property with a drone searching for the other vehicles.
“We worked together with them,” Bowen said. “They recovered a significant amount of property and were able to get it back to the people it belonged to – that’s a good day.”