Kansas University Drone Research Team Shares Tech Knowledge With US Sheriffs & Deputies

At the recent National Sheriff’s Association annual conference, deputies and sheriffs from around the United States got a special presentation from university researchers, introducing them to the benefits of the most common kind of electric aviation.

“To be in front of hundreds of law enforcement officers from all around the country and be able to showcase the K-State Salina UAS expertise was an excellent opportunity,” said Spencer Schrader, K-State Salina UAS flight operations manager. “Leading discussions on safety, the latest technology and information on our campus’s professional development program will lead to life-saving measures that first responders can utilize in real-world emergency situations.”

The presentation that gave them this opportunity focused not only on the latest in drone technologies, but also focused on how law enforcement officers could best put those clean technologies into use on a daily basis.

This was part of the conference’s “NSA Talks” series, and K-State Salina’s team decided to use their speaking opportunity to present a talk entitled “Drones As A First Responder.” The team also gave hands-on demonstrations, explained to sheriffs and deputies how they can get the required FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot license, and even helped run the “bucket challenge,” where pilots try to maneuver drones to see what’s inside different buckets (a harder challenger than you’d think).

“K-State Salina remains at the forefront of training in the public safety industry,” said Courtney Hoffman, assistant director of K-State Salina Professional Education and Outreach. “Our year-round programs utilize the expertise of our Applied Aviation Research Center staff to bring training and continuing education to law enforcement and public safety professionals. This is critical to provide safety and life-saving techniques to law enforcement while utilizing drones.”

More importantly, they were able to tell professionals about the university’s educational program that prepares officers for drone use. Hopefully with the small bit of information and fun they had, some sheriff’s offices will send deputies to get more experience and put more clean technology to work in the streets.

If you’re a public safety professional, be sure to check out the team’s upcoming Public Safety UAS Workshop this October. You can find more details here.

Why This Matters

If you’ve messed around with drones, or you’ve seen kids mess around with them, it might seem like anybody can just pick one up at Best Buy and start using it. In some ways, that’s true, but in other ways, it couldn’t be less true. While modern sensors and smartphone/tablet technology makes drones easier than ever to use, that doesn’t mean you’re ready to do serious work with them.

For one, there’s a regulatory problem with pulling a drone out of a box from a retailer and sending it into the sky: the need for licensing. Recreational pilots can take short online test to show they know the basic rules, but to do work with one, you’ve got to pass the Part 107 test and keep up your continuing education. Whether you’re a cop or a photographer, you’ll need that.

And that’s just federal policy. Some states have additional laws and policies a pilot has to know, and some have law enforcement-specific policies that an officer must learn about or risk bungling investigations.

The other issue is that you’d better be ready to deal with the challenges of a particular field compared to the limitations of the technology. If you think you can hover a drone over an scene for hours, you’re in for a surprise.

This and many other things need to become part of regular training and not something that an individual law enforcement officer has to figure out for themselves (and possibly get wrong). It’s good to see researchers and educational institutions getting into this space and helping out.

Featured image: A DJI Mavic Mini 3 Pro, DJI press photo.



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