Since 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has established regulations for UAS operations. Known as Part 107, this set of laws require a license for commercial flight. So unless you are flying your UAS for recreational purposes, a Part 107 license is necessary. Part 107 rules apply to commercial operators (i.e. real estate, surveying, inspections) and public safety pilots. Public safety pilots have another certification option known as a Certificate of Authorization or COA. You can read about its advantages here. However, in this article, we’ll focus on the Part 107 license since it’s applicable to most pilots.
To begin the process for a Part 107 license, the FAA outlines several eligibility requirements.
- Prospective pilot must be at least 16 years old
- Capable of speaking, reading, and writing in English
- Physically and mentally fit to fly
Getting Your License
As a new pilot, you have to first create an IACRA profile and receive an FAA Tracking Number (FTN). This is done on their website here.
Once obtaining an FTN, the next step is to schedule an appointment to take the Unmanned Aircraft General – Small (UAG) exam. These tests take place at FAA-approved Knowledge Testing Centers and require you to bring government-issued identification.
To pass the UAG exam, you need a minimum score of 42 out of 60 questions correct, or 70%. After passing the test, new pilots need to apply for a remote pilot certificate using FAA Form 8710-13. This is completed online using the FAA’s IACRA system.
Using the IACRA account created, you will apply for a Remote Pilot Certificate under Pilot Application Type. After inputting the Knowledge Test ID, submit the application. A confirmation email will provide instructions for printing a temporary certificate until the permanent version arrives in the mail. You must present it upon request when operating a UAS.
The FAA Part 107 Test cost is a flat fee of 175 USD.
After the Exam
The FAA requires certified pilots to take a Part 107 Recurrent exam every 24 months to keep their knowledge up to date. You can take the test at no cost and online. It requires a score of 100% correct on 60 questions, although it is open-book.
A recurrent exam also counts towards your eligibility for night operations. Since the inception of Part 107 rules, flights at night or over people required a waiver from the FAA prior to operations. As of April 21, 2021, neither operation requires a waiver under special conditions. One condition to be eligible to fly at night is the completion of an updated knowledge exam or recurrent exam. The other requirements for these flights are found here.
Part 107 Training
While the Part 107 process is fairly straightforward, taking the knowledge exam requires significant preparation. It covers an expansive set of topics including but not limited to:
- UAS regulations
- Airport operations
- Emergency procedures
- Aircraft performance
- Weather and UAS operation
One of the many courses offered by FLYMOTION is Part 107 Test Prep. Our instructors cover all aspects of the exam and the process of developing a UAS program at your agency. Check out our website for more details on our training courses.
A Part 107 certification opens the door to the full potential of UAS platforms. Taking the time to understand the exam concepts will not only be money well-spent but increased value to you the operator. Have any questions? Reach out to a FLYMOTION representative here.
The right drone mapping software turns your aircraft into an effective rapid-mapping solution. Let’s take a look at two popular mapping platforms—DroneDeploy and Pix4D.
Pix4D has a wide range of mapping applications. These include cloud services and a mapping app for mobile devices. For the sake of comparison, we are going over their drone application, Pix4Dcapture.
Pix4Dcapture is the drone mapping app that allows pilots to plan missions on supported Apple and Android devices. Users can select from five different mission profiles, four of which are autonomous. Each mission is fully customizable. Parameters including overlap percentage, payload angle, and drone speed can be set for the best results. Another important variable parameter is GSD or Ground Sample Distance. This metric will determine the amount of data captured and subsequent measurement accuracy.
After configuring the mission, the operator starts the mission and the aircraft begins to capture data autonomously. Flying a pattern determined by the mission profile, operators monitor the process live. After the mission, images are reviewed directly in the app before uploading them to Pix4Dcloud for processing. In Pix4Dcloud, users create 2D or 3D maps of construction progress, land plots, and disaster sites faster than traditional methods.
Pix4D Supported Drones
- Phantom 4, Phantom 4 Pro, Phantom 4 Pro V2
- Phantom 3 Standard, Phantom 3 Advanced, Phantom 3 Pro
- Mavic Air, Mavic Pro, Mavic 2 Pro
- Inspire 1, Inspire 2
- Matrice 100, Matrice 200, Matrice 210, Matrice 210 RTK, Matrice 600
- Bebop 2
- ANAFI Thermal
- Disco Pro AG
While Pix4Dcapture is a free app, its software companion, Pix4Dmapper, is not. This photogrammetry software turns image data into usable 2D and 3D maps. In Pix4Dmapper, users are able to measure surface area, distance, and volume.
A subscription plan to Pix4Dmapper costs 350 USD a month. If you choose to be billed yearly, the cost drops down to 291.67 USD a month. This plan includes a license for two devices, unlimited processing, updates, and personal support.
The option also exists to make a one-time purchase of the software for 4990 USD. However, the license is limited to one device and updates for the first year.
DroneDeploy is a drone mapping software alternative to Pix4D. Like Pix4D, DroneDeploy utilizes drone sensors to autonomously create 3D maps. Mapping parameters are fully customizable and data uploads are automatic.
One unique element of their platform is Live Map. This is a real-time mapping feature built into the flight interface that doesn’t use pictures or require internet access. The Live Map feature also works with thermal data to create a large-scale thermal map.
Particularly useful for rapid assessments, Live Map drastically reduces the time needed for decision-making. No back-end processing means the information is available on the controller so users can better coordinate disaster relief efforts.
In addition to Live Map, DroneDeploy also provides cloud-based photogrammetry for specialized map creation. Capable of handling up to 10,000 photographs in a single mission, the platform promises powerful processing and fast turn-around times.
Collaboration is integral to DroneDeploy. You can view maps on any type of device for ultimate flexibility. Collaborators add comments, annotations, and measurements so everyone is aware of mission progression.
DroneDeploy Supported Drones
- Mavic Air, Mavic Pro, Mavic 2 Pro, Mavic 2 Enterprise, Mavic 2 Enterprise Zoom, Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual
- Phantom 4 Pro V1, Phantom 4 Pro V2/
- Phantom Pro
- Matrice 100, Matrice 200, Matrice 210, Matrice 210 RTK, Matrice 300 RTK, Matrice 600
- One X
- One X2
Whereas Pix4D prices their applications individually, DroneDeploy prices according to mission scale. Here is a DroneDeploy package breakdown:
Lite: 149 USD per month / 99 USD per month, if billed annually
- 1,000 image upload limit per map
- 1 admin user
- Email support
- Live Map – RGB only
- Measurements – 2D Maps only
- Elevation Maps – Digital Surface Model only
- Progress Report – Maps and photos in a mission report
- Share & Export Maps
Individual: 499 USD per month / 299 USD per month, if billed annually
- All Lite features plus:
- 1 full user access
- 3,000 image upload per map
- Unlimited mapping, videos, panoramas
- Live Map – RGB and Plant Health view
- Ground Control Points
- Measurements – 2D & 3D Maps
- Overlays – 2D Overlays on current maps
- Side-by Side comparison
Teams: Request Quote
- All Individual features plus:
- 10,000 image upload per map
- Live Map – RGB, Plant Health, Thermal
- Vertical Flight – Conduct vertical inspections
- Radiometric Thermal Processing
Enterprise: Request Quote
- All Teams features plus:
- Drone Live Stream – live stream video via link
- Pilot certification management
- Equipment management
- API & SDK access for custom integrations
As you can tell, both DroneDeploy and Pix4D provide similar capabilities. Choosing one over the other will come down to the scale of your operation and budget. While the entry-level is lower with DroneDeploy, it is limited in options. Pix4D, on the other hand, offers the whole package at a lower price. However, there is no Live Map equivalent, which you may need.
Taking time to consider needs and budget is important for making the right choice. One platform will cater to your operations better than the other. Either way, Pix4D, and DroneDeploy will elevate your mission capabilities with their turn-key mapping solutions.
FLYMOTION does work more with Pix4D than DroneDeploy and our mapping specialists can guide you in the proper direction regarding your agency’s needs. We can also consult on 2D fast-mapping software from Pix4D known as Pix4Dreact. Contact us to inquire for more information!
Trends in technology, including unmanned aircraft, would indicate that they are becoming more intuitive to use. The integration of sensors and automation into flight systems reduces pilot workload and the barrier to enter for new pilots. All of these facets support the manufacturer’s claim that users can simply pick up their products and start flying. While true to a degree, some public safety UAS pilots erroneously believe they can fly without any training beyond a Part 107 license.
The truth, however, is very different. The effectiveness of UAS operations depends heavily on two factors: pilot proficiency and the deployment of mission-appropriate resources. Now that your department has acquired aircraft, how does its pilots build up their flying abilities? What about adhering to operating procedures during different missions?
One way to address these questions is by taking one of FLYMOTION’s many training courses. We believe that offering equipment is only half of the equation for a successful UAS program. The value comes from creating a sustainable operation that goes beyond the sale of an aircraft. Equipping public safety pilots with the knowledge and skills to operate equipment effectively is one way in which we are ‘Supporting Those Who Serve.’
With courses ranging from Part 107 training to disaster mapping and night operations to tactical thermography, FLYMOTION uses the accumulated UAS experience of our instructors to provide training at every level. Beginning pilots can prepare for the Part 107 exam through our test prep program.
Once certified, courses Response Tech 1 and Response Tech 2 are available to put pilots through scenario-based training. Flight procedures set in the context of emergency operations help participants understand the role of unmanned aircraft during incident response.
For agencies looking to increase their skill sets, we offer specialized courses like Interior Operations or Counter-UAS Operations. Interior Operations deal with how UAVs are best used indoors with more obstacles and challenges with teams outside of a structure. Interior Operations is particularly useful for agencies who deploy their UAS in support of SWAT calls. More importantly, attendees understand this partnership covers each other’s limitations.
Counter-UAS delves into the methods and systems for protecting airspace from intruding aircraft. These calls see pilots operating an aircraft in tight spaces and require well-developed skills. These courses and others make you pilots familiar with the specific demands, ensuring a better outcome when those situations occur.
Training With FLYMOTION
Florida State University’s Center for Disaster Risk Policy (CDRP) accredits several of our courses as indicated in our course catalog. Courses are taught periodically at our headquarters in Florida. However, the option exists for our instructors to train at your agency and on your schedule—having your pilots learn in their area of operations may fulfill needs in ways that a general course cannot. This flexibility has enabled FLYMOTION instructors to train some of the largest government and defense agencies across the globe in a variety of basic and extensive programs. The complete course catalog is available on the FLYMOTION website.
Using technology without the proper training will limit its potential. No level of technology features will replace the time spent using tools properly. With the right instruction, however, your pilots become more proficient, and your UAS program, becomes a valuable asset.
The past several years have seen an uptick in wildfires. Even more worrisome is the spread and subsequent damage of these fires. To oppose the mounting threat, some fire departments have turned to unmanned aircraft for an additional countermeasure. It’s an obvious decision, considering the advantage that UAS provides in an emergency operations scenario. In this article, we take a brief look at the applications of these aerial platforms in fighting wildfires.
As with any UAS program, the primary objective of a drone is to provide situational awareness. Residential fires and hazmat operations are, for the most part, contained. Unlike these incidents, wildfires are expansive incidents, capable of growing rapidly in minutes. Maintaining awareness is a real challenge. Manned aircraft often fulfill this need, but they are limited by weather and geography. Sometimes, they cannot fly close to the fires to overlook critical information.
Deploying a UAS during a wildfire fills that awareness gap. Whereas an incident commander may wait a while for air support, a UAS unit on-scene can launch immediately. From the initial attack, decision-makers have a birds-eye perspective of the burn area. This allows to predict the path of the fire and identify any structures in danger. Rather than being reactive, a UAS-equipped response is well-informed and proactive.
The Thermal Advantage
Incorporating a thermal payload significantly increases the benefit of a UAS. Smaller aircraft like the Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced and Autel EVO II Dual have stabilized optical and thermal gimbals. Larger aircraft, such as the Matrice 300 RT, carry the H20-T, also a 3-in-1 payload. In short, it isn’t hard to find a platform with thermal capabilities.
Thermal cameras are so critical in these incidents because smoke obscures visibility. It typically hides the size of a fire, its direction, and other threats. Augmenting an optical camera with a thermal camera is one way of overcoming this challenge. Incident commanders remain aware of the incidents regardless of the conditions and make better decisions and decisions faster.
As crews begin to clean up after a fire, UAS aircraft remain useful. With a thermal camera, crews identify hidden hot spots. It is critical to prevent a re-ignition for the safety of everyone involved. So, placing a thermal asset at a high vantage point is certainly effective.
After containing a wildfire, responders typically collect incident data to update wildfire models. An effective solution is a LiDAR mapping drone. Rapidly scanning a burn area, a mapping aircraft accurately reconstructs the area affected by the fire. Rather than relying on photos for damage assessments, the command uses a 3D map. Building damage, forest density, and geography are captured in full detail—information essential to understanding the severity of the incident.
A more specialized application, some drones are outfitted with prescribed burn kits. To meet resource management requirements, some departments are finding it advantageous to employ UAS in this role. While drip torches and flare guns are popular solutions, neither one is as efficient as what the IGNIS system by Drone Amplified promises. Dropping small chemical balls that ignite on the ground, a drone equipped with the IGNIS payload starts a prescribed burn quickly over a large area. Furthermore, it reaches areas inaccessible to ground crews and creates precise fire lines. In an active capacity, UAS solutions make resource management operations more efficient.
By now, you may be sold on the advantages of deploying a UAS for a wildfire response. However, some agencies with UAS programs have run into some challenges you need to be aware of. First, the airspace over a large wildfire is typically congested. Tanker aircraft, helicopters, and spotter planes are flying in and out of a very small airspace. The low visibility alone makes for a dangerous situation. Adding small unmanned aircraft to the mix significantly increases the risk of air collision. To reduce the chance of fatalities, UAS operators need to be aware of the other aerial assets. When UAS pilots lose awareness of their surroundings, an already bad situation becomes much worse.
The second challenge some agencies are facing is the issue of privacy. Much like law enforcement UAS programs, fire departments have faced some criticism for their use of unmanned aircraft. One such widely known fire department, for example, met some resistance when they deployed their UAS unit. Their response? Be transparent as possible. Learning lessons from failed programs, the department in question clearly outlined their procedure for the city committee while working with the ACLU to avoid privacy infringement. As a result, the program has matured since its inception.
Educating the public about your UAS program is the first step to ensuring its success in the future. Assuming the public will understand may raise some tough opposition from decision-makers.
Whether it be overwatch or prescribed burn operations, UAS units are extremely capable assets for combating wildfires. Even fire departments with air support units (ASUs) benefit from having another layer between an ASU and ground units. A rapidly-deployable platform generates a more complete picture of the incident, especially for isolated units.
As fire seasons grow in length, your department may want to consider leveraging an unmanned platform for wildfire response. FLYMOTION, as a provider of unmanned solutions, stands ready to assist in this initiative. Our extensive line of UAS solutions coupled with industry knowledge will ensure your agency is fully prepared. Interested? Check out our website, or contact us.
DJI’s recent release of the new Mavic 3 has generated a lot of excitement and rightly so. The Mavic 2 was released over 4 years ago, leaving many wondering in the meantime about the future of the Mavic line. This year’s model did not disappoint. It’s a long-awaited milestone in the Mavic line, with a long list of improvements and new features.
But while the Mavic 3 is appealing to cinematographers, what implications does it hold for public safety operators? How relevant is it to the public safety field? In this article, we break down the model’s improvements and potential applications.
The DJI Mavic 3
The first noticeable difference from its predecessor is the absence of “Pro” in the name—there is no “Mavic 3 Pro.” While the DJI Mavic 3 remains in the flagship line, this change is probably an attempt to simplify the naming. Fortunately, the changes don’t stop with the name. A new dual-sensor camera payload is one of those changes.
Boasting a Hasselblad 20MP f/2.8 4/3 CMOS sensor paired with a 1/2-inch Tele Camera, the Mavic 3 provides a new level of imaging quality. The Hasselblad sensor is larger than the Mavic 2 Pro’s 1-inch sensor for better dynamic range and low-light performance. It is capable of shooting video at a maximum resolution of 5.1k up to 50 fps and 4k up to 120 fps. The camera takes impressive 20-megapixel still images.
The Tele Camera offers 28x hybrid zoom capabilities, a focal length equivalent of 162mm at an aperture of f/4.4. Camera resolution is lower than the Hasselblad sensor, shooting 4k video up to 30 fps and 12-megapixel pictures. Stacked on top of each other, both cameras are stabilized by a 3-axis gimbal.
A new transmission system, known as O3+, streams a video feed to the controller at 1080p at 60fps. High-resolution, high-fluidity streams allow pilots to make quicker inputs and more precise movements.
With dual cameras, the Mavic 3 essentially combines the capabilities of the Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom into one stabilized payload. The flexibility of hybrid zoom combined with the quality of the Hasselblad sensor means incredible versatility for the Mavic 3.
The camera isn’t the only thing receiving an upgrade. Flight performance has increased significantly. The Mavic 3 has a maximum flight time of 46 minutes, an increase of 15 minutes from the Mavic 2 Pro. This improvement stems from the lighter airframe and a larger 5000 mAh battery.
Range has received a boost with the new model. Whereas the Mavic 2 Pro had a maximum transmission range of 10 km, O3+ increases the range of the Mavic 3 up to 9.3 miles (15 km). This ability, coupled with the 1080p at 60 fps feed mentioned earlier, ensures pilots have greater control over their aircraft.
While the DJI Mavic 3 (43 mph in Sport mode) is slower than the Mavic 2 Pro (45 mph in Sport mode) by only 2 miles per hour, it has faster ascent and descent speeds. An improvement by 6 mph and 7 mph, respectively, makes the aircraft more maneuverable. Pilots can evade obstacles quicker or shoot more dramatic shots, underscoring the powerful cinematic drone the Mavic has become.
DJI also upgraded the obstacle avoidance system on the Mavic 3, using wide-angle cameras on the four corners of the aircraft. This creates what is known as an “omni-directional obstacle-sensing” system. The top and bottom sensors are still present on the aircraft. Better obstacle avoidance means improvements for two features—Return-to-Home (RTH) and ActiveTrack.
An updated RTH function calculates the most efficient route to the home point, smoothly avoiding any obstacles in the process. ActiveTrack 5.0 benefits from the addition of APAS 5.0, an obstacle detection algorithm, to keep the subject in frame even when flying in areas like forests. The parameters of obstacle detection can be manually set and will affect the speed at which ActiveTrack works.
Mavic 3 vs. Mavic 3 Cine
Currently, DJI offers two versions—the Mavic 3 and the Mavic 3 Cine. The main difference between the two is that the Cine has an internal 1 TB SSD and the ability to shoot in an Apple ProRes 422 HQ video codec. Therefore it is 4 grams heavier than the regular model. Cinematographers and content creators may want to purchase the Cine model because of the higher-quality codec. Otherwise, the two models are practically identical.
There is, however, a significant difference in price. The Mavic 3 costs $2,199 USD. The Mavic 3 Cine, on the other hand, costs $4,999 USD.
A Drone for Public Safety?
All of these improvements are exciting, but are they relevant to the public safety sector? After all, this isn’t an Enterprise edition; it’s clearly designed for the consumer market. Should an agency consider buying a Mavic 3? Examine three ways that a Mavic 3 would be advantageous in this application.
- Hybrid Zoom: While an agency may not care about a Hasselblad sensor, the 28x hybrid zoom is certainly an attractive feature. Pilots can get eyes on dangerous situations without damaging the aircraft or blowing their cover if operating discreetly. Considering the age of the Mavic 2 Zoom, this may be the aircraft to get if you need that capability. Also the high-quality sensor this aircraft is an excellent platform for photogrammetry. The low-light capabilities of the camera would be an asset for crime scene documentation, accident reconstruction, or mapping.
- Extended Flight Time: A 46-minute flight time has huge implications for public safety operations. The Mavic 3 can stay in flight to perform overwatch longer than any other DJI aircraft in its class. Operators can provide the advantage of an aerial asset during extended operations, ensuring greater mission success.
- Obstacle Avoidance: Indoor flight is made easier with a better obstacle-avoidance system. The pilot can focus on clearing a building, for example, without worrying about crashing or severely damaging the drone.
The massive improvements in camera quality and flight performance make the Mavic 3 an exceptional addition to the DJI lineup. And yes, those improvements are very relevant to public safety programs. Longer flight time alone makes it a versatile asset to any public safety drone program.
As UAVs become smaller in size, the potential for their use in covert operations grows. This principle is what the Black Hornet PRS by Teledyne FLIR demonstrates. Nano drones, or mini drones as some call them, are quickly finding use in the defense sector.
Developed by the well-known Teledyne FLIR, the Black Hornet puts immediate situational awareness capabilities in the hands of a soldier. At 6.6 inches in length and weighing under 33 ounces, it is easily deployable by a soldier. These dimensions give Black Hornet pilots a significant tactical advantage. A nearly undetectable visual and audio signature makes discreet operation possible. Small size does not limit capability for the aircraft. Equipped with optical and thermal cameras, the Black Hornet relays video at distances up to 1.24 miles. It has an endurance of 25 minutes — ample time to accurately assess a situation.
A Tactical Advantage
Imagine a scenario where a squad of soldiers needs to clear a building. They do not have fire support, no reinforcements. The probability of encountering hostiles is high. The enemy possibly outnumbers the squad. The only way to find out is by going in.
A soldier equipped with the Black Hornet PRS changes this situation. Its low profile permits the pilot to fly it in close without being detected. And remote operation keeps the soldiers out of range of enemy guns. Virtually silent, the Black Hornet flies into the building, sending a video feed to the squad leader’s tablet. With this information, the leader confirms the number and position of hostiles. Now, soldiers can draw up a plan of attack based on real-time intel and strike with the element of surprise.
Mission success is dependent on having a pocket-sized reconnaissance solution like the Black Hornet. More importantly, the information goes directly to the warfighter. Larger, more complex unmanned systems, feed intel through a series of filters all of which slow the flow of communication. Enter the FLIR Black Hornet PRS. As the title, Personal Reconnaissance System (PRS) suggests, this mini drone focuses on increasing the capabilities of the individual soldier. This, in turn, increases unit performance on the battlefield.
As one might imagine, the versatility of the Black Hornet UAS extends beyond defense applications. Disaster response is rapidly becoming a primary function of the drone.
Earthquakes, hurricanes, and terrorist attacks often trap victims in inaccessible places. Confined space rescues present a special challenge for rescuers. These situations require a considerable degree of preparation by responders. Part of this preparation includes knowing the location of the victims and the nature of hazards. Using larger drones for reconnaissance. Fortunately, tight spaces and obstacles are no problem for this mini drone.
Drones are nothing new in themselves. What makes the Black Hornet innovative is its size. Packaging the sensor system into such a small airframe expands the applications of UAS in several sectors.
The success of the FLIR Black Hornet drone caught the eye of the U.S. Army. As a result, the Army has invested a total of 60.3 million into the technology. Preparing their soldiers for scenarios described earlier is a priority for the Army and aligns with plans to create a connected force. Such interest has strong implications for the trajectory of this technology. As more organizations entertain the use of nano drones, we may see their large-scale integration very soon.
The growing potential of unmanned systems in law enforcement applications means that more departments are looking into starting a UAS program of their own. In the first part of this series, we briefly covered the questions agencies should answer before starting. We also looked at the regulations that apply to the public sector. In this part, we will look at some of the more popular aircraft options for law enforcement along with software and training.
Once you establish a mission profile and budget for a UAS program, your agency will begin to explore aircraft options. Aircraft vary in size, capability, range, and price. While operating the largest, most expensive UAV is appealing, it may not be the right fit for your agency. Let’s take a look at some of the popular models available through FLYMOTION.
DJI Matrice 300
It isn’t hard to see why DJI’s Matrice 300 is becoming an industry standard. A 55-minute flight time, a 9-mile transmission range, IP45 rating, and a large payload capacity make the Matrice a public safety icon. Six sensors cover every angle of the aircraft for accurate obstacle detection and avoidance. The Matrice utilizes two TB60 intelligent batteries, which are hot-swappable, allowing a pilot to change batteries without restarting the system. Finally, all video transmits to the DJI Smart Controller in 1080p, a high-resolution feed for detailed awareness.
The other half of Matrice’s capabilities lie in its broad payload portfolio. Operators have three different mounting configurations: one underslung gimbal, two underslung gimbals, or one underslung gimbal with another one mounted on top. Combining the payloads described below on one platform turns the Matrice into a powerful aerial asset.
A popular payload used by law enforcement is the Zenmuse H20T. A hybrid sensor combines a 20 MP optical zoom camera, a 12 MP wide camera, a 1200 m laser rangefinder, and a radiometric thermal camera. Such flexibility allows operators to make the most of their aerial solutions and respond to a variety of incidents.
Depending on the situation, the H20T can be used in conjunction with several accessories. The GL60 and GL60 Zoom spotlights are powerful lighting solutions with a reach of 200 meters and are compatible with the DJI Pilot App. These spotlights pair with the camera payload, mimicking its movement. The IR10 Infrared Spotlight works with an IR camera, like the H20T, to increase the image quality. Since infrared light can’t be seen by the human eye, pilots can light up an area without being detected. The DJI Flight App supports the IR10 for an added degree of control.
In some instances, being seen is as important as it is to see. The FL48 LED kit significantly increases aircraft visibility, capable of red/blue and yellow flash patterns, depending on the mission. Mounted on the legs, the kit can sync with the built-in warning lights through the controller. The lights can be powered from the aircraft and add the presence necessary in certain situations.
To communicate with people on the ground, the Matrice accommodates the MP130 Speaker. Its low weight, low power consumption, and clear sound make the MP130 the perfect communication solution.
Some scenarios require the delivery of packages, an ability the TH4 drop kit facilitates. The TH4 can carry up to four individual loads for a total weight capacity of 44 pounds. A Matrice equipped with the TH4 carries medical kits, hostage phones, and life jackets without endangering any first responders.
For mapping operations, the Zenmuse L1 is a LiDAR solution within the DJI ecosystem. Combining a Livox LiDAR module with a 1-inch optical camera, the L1 can create accurate 3D data. DJI’s Terra software then processes the data into models. In addition, the L1 supports Point Cloud LiveView; pilots view the 3D map on the controller as its built. This ability provides immediate insight into the terrain or buildings involved in the area of operations.
Emesent’s Hovermap payload is a third-party LiDAR solution that integrates into the Matrice system. Also capable of recreating high-quality maps, Hovermap stands out for enabling the Matrice to fly autonomously in GPS-denied environments. Using its LiDAR data, Hovermap also augments the obstacle avoidance of the aircraft. This grants an added measure of safety, even in the most austere environments. A rapid turnaround for data processing means users have actionable intel to make prompt decisions. Mapping is useful for disaster response, crime scene re-creation, and counter-terrorism as a method of change detection at large venues.
Remember that with all of these features and options, the Matrice 300 comes with a significant price tag. Unless your department has the resources and/or the need for the Matrice 300, you may need to look at some smaller and less expensive options. Also, keep the size of the Matrice in mind when making a decision. The aircraft is large to accommodate the weight of the payloads. If indoor flight is a priority, this may not be the best option.
DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced
The DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced (M2EA) is a smaller and more affordable platform. Built on the successful Mavic 2 Pro, the M2EA extends its capabilities into the public safety sector with the integration of a dual optical/thermal camera gimbal. This payload, along with the option to mount one of four accessories, brings the capability of the Matrice down to a lower price point and smaller form factor. With a flight time of 31 minutes and a range of over 6 miles, the M2EA can able to respond to a variety of incidents. A 48 MP optical camera paired with a 640p radiometric thermal camera means a greater understanding of the incident. Pilots can easily switch views on the controller.
Four different accessories are available for use on the M2EA, all of which use the connection plate at the front of the aircraft. A spotlight, speaker, and a night-operation compliant beacon can be used. An RTK module is the fourth accessory, enabling centimeter-level positioning needed for survey and inspection missions.
Flexible configurations, along with the small size and lower price, make the Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced a good starting option.
Autel EVO II Dual Enterprise
Autel’s counterpart to the M2EA, the EVO II Dual Enterprise, is another popular law enforcement option. Please note that there are two Enterprise-edition aircraft, the EVO II Pro and EVO II Dual. While the Pro only has a 6K camera, the Dual has both optical and thermal cameras. This is the model most departments select. As an Enterprise UAV, the Dual features a reinforced structure, four accessories, and Autel’s Smart Controller. The Dual Enterprise boasts a 42-minute flight time, 8-mile transmission range, 360-degree obstacle avoidance, and predictive target tracking. Like the M2EA, the Dual transmits a 1080p video feed.
The Dual Enterprise package also offers a spotlight, speaker, beacon, and RTK module. Each one tailors the aircraft for a different mission profile. While similar to the M2EA, Autel’s Dual Enterprise costs about 3,000 dollars more. This is a factor to consider before selecting it for your program.
UAVs cannot be effective tools if the flow of information stops at the pilot. While a pilot can relay information verbally over a radio, it’s filtered, leaving out certain details. The alternative is to have the incident commander look at the pilot’s display. Now you have tied down the IC to the location of the pilot. Your department, therefore, may want to consider using streaming software. Some examples include Teradek and Dejero. These platforms bridge a communication gap by incorporating video data from unmanned aircraft, dashcams, bodycams, and cell phones. All of which feed to a central web app hub. Encrypted transmissions ensure security during sensitive operations.
Using these software solutions, any number of decision-makers watch the live feed from the UAV from their location. Now the number of individuals with access to valuable intel increases significantly, enabling them to make informed decisions. Streaming capabilities are scalable, whether it be to an IC onsite or an Emergency Operations Center miles away. Developing some level of connectivity makes a UAV much more effective and law enforcement operations more efficient.
Now that you’ve selected hardware and software, a training program needs to be created and implemented. FLYMOTION can provide training solutions for your agency. Whether you need support in starting a program or upscaling what’s already in place, our experienced training staff can train your UAS pilots. FLYMOTION holds training sessions throughout the year at our headquarters in Tampa, Florida. We are also able to travel to your location and provide dedicated training on-site. Following a standardized training plan will ensure the effective use of the aircraft now and the future success of your UAS program.
As you can tell, there are a lot of things to consider when starting a UAS program. And while it’s a lengthy process, the benefits are certainly worthwhile. More and more departments are finding ways to implement unmanned systems into their operations. This ranges from SWAT-team support to using it as a first responder. A drone won’t replace trained officers or patrol cars. But it can perform tasks that would otherwise be very dangerous for personnel. In a limited sense, it also provides any mission with overwatch without the need for a much more expensive air support unit.
FLYMOTION is dedicated to supporting the integration of technology into public safety because we believe in the advantage it provides. We offer a broad range of solutions including training, equipment, and command vehicles. Interested? Check out our website and contact us directly.
Public safety, government, and defense officials representing agencies and organizations across the globe descended upon the Guardian Centers training facility in Perry, Georgia last week for UTAC 2021. UTAC, the Unmanned Tactical Application Conference, is an annual event put on by FLYMOTION to showcase the intersection of technology and emergency/disaster response. It’s also an opportunity for public safety, government, and defense organizations to undergo real-world scenarios and hands-on training. This year’s conference was unlike any other drone or robotic event, establishing a precedent for an immersive experience that benefited everyone in attendance.
UTAC first launched in 2019 and, after a brief hiatus in 2020 due to the global pandemic, returned this year. Despite it only being the second year, the conference quadrupled in size—a testament to the growing integration of unmanned systems in the public safety sector.
The UTAC Vision
FLYMOTION co-founders Ryan English and David Stratchko attended many UAS conferences and noticed one key element missing from these shows. These conferences were nothing more than static exhibitions, none of which offered a hands-on environment for attendees. Thus, the idea of UTAC was born and fulfilled a desperate need in the UAS industry.
Through mock scenarios interspersed with flight courses, product demos, and more, FLYMOTION aimed to directly connect industry leaders with end-users, allowing participants to interact with technology and its representatives first-hand. UTAC, however, evolved into something much deeper. With so many first responders in attendance, the conference transformed into a space to share ideas, tactics, and best practices for a still-developing drone community. Scenario instructors, guest speakers, and panels are integral to the UTAC experience. All guide discussions on topics relevant to law enforcement, fire rescue, emergency management, government, and defense professionals.
FLYMOTION was not alone in making this vision a reality. UTAC benefited from the title sponsorship of the software company Auterion and by the presence of their Vice President of Public Safety, Romeo Durscher. A respected leader in the unmanned systems industry, Durscher’s extensive experience at NASA, DJI, and now Auterion helped focus the conference on the positive impact technology can have within real-world operations. Putting this concept into action involved the use of an Auterion-powered VTOL UAV from Quantum Systems providing overwatch during the training scenarios.
The UTAC Scenarios
Along with the expertise of individuals like Durscher and others, UTAC attendees saw the application of unmanned aerial, ground, and maritime systems in eight hyper-realistic scenarios.
A mock active shooter/bus hostage scenario demonstrated the use of aerial systems like the DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced. Equipped with a drop mechanism, it delivered a phone while a tethered drone provided long-endurance overwatch. On the ground, Boston Dynamics’ Spot deployed from the SWAT APC to deliver medical supplies, all to keep officers safe. In this way, officers stayed out of range of the shooters until receiving the signal to take them down. Smoke, flashbangs, and screaming role players made for the immersive, realistic demonstrations FLYMOTION strives to create.
Law enforcement officers regularly conduct vehicle stops. However, despite their frequency, each case poses a significant risk to the officer. The first day of UTAC 2021 kicked off with a simulated pursuit and vehicle stop. The dangerous nature of the suspect created a standoff between officers and the driver.
Officers then deployed a DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced with the speaker attachment, flying it up to the car and providing a vantage point beyond the patrol cars. Using the speaker, officers told the suspect to get out of the car. As the suspect stepped out of the vehicle to face the officers, the UAV pilot noticed a handgun in his waistband. So, when the suspect suddenly drew his gun, officers fired first, taking down the suspect. Law enforcement never left the safety of their vehicles while maintaining an elevated situational awareness all due to the effective use of unmanned aircraft.
Hazmat operations are challenging because the true nature of the situation is often unknown. Sending in firefighters to investigate takes time, often escalates an incident, putting more lives at risk. However, the tanker crash scenario at UTAC 2021 proved this doesn’t have to be the case.
Pairing a DJI Matrice 300 with a Squishy Robotics Sensor enabled first responders to assess the situation quickly and accurately. The Matrice, equipped with a release mechanism, flew the sensor over the leaking tanker and dropped it close to the fissure. The unique structure of Squishy Robotics’ sensor protected it from the fall. It also negates the need for a parachute that could drift away from the target. Immediately, firefighters had a video feed of the rupture along with data from a 4-gas meter. The Matrice hovered overhead to monitor the situation with its cameras. In a matter of minutes, responders knew the severity of the accident, along with its risks, before going in.
As unmanned aircraft become more accessible to the general consumer, the risk of a rogue pilot penetrating high-risk airspace also grows. Large events, government buildings, and airports are all potential targets for a drone attack. DJI’s Aeroscope is one layer of an effective multi-tier defense system.
The Counter-UAS scenario tested Aeroscope’s capabilities, during which an oblivious pilot attempted to enter the simulated restricted airspace over the Presidential motorcade. Using electronic signals of the aircraft, the system displays the aircraft trajectory and the precise location of the pilot. Upon detection of the aircraft, the operator dispatched patrol units to the location of the pilot, giving orders to take down the aircraft. DJI’s Aeroscope solves both problems of the drone security issue. First, it detects the intrusion of the aircraft itself. Second, it locates the pilot, who often is out of sight.
Subway Terrorist Attack
Confined and low-visibility spaces present a unique set of difficulties for first responders. Darkness or particles in the air limit the situational awareness of decision-makers. Similarly, smaller spaces are challenging, making it difficult to bring larger equipment and more personnel.
The Subway Terrorist Attack scenario demonstrated this with a mile-long tunnel full of smoke. Three types of technologies proved to be effective in overcoming these barriers. Squishy Robotics’ sensors were placed at points along the tunnel, feeding back video data to the Incident Command post. These sensors deployed from the back of Boston Dynamics’ Spot, capable of navigating the difficult train tracks in low visibility.
Both stationary and mobile video feeds developed an immediate assessment of the situation. Once responders declared the scene safe, Emesent’s LIDAR scanner mounted to a Matrice flew down the length of the tunnel. Its LIDAR data created a high-resolution 3D map for post-incident analysis.
Law enforcement, along with search and rescue units regularly respond to search for missing people. These can range from elderly individuals with dementia to minors.
In the Missing Person scenario during UTAC, an elderly individual had wandered out into the woods. Police deployed both deployed an unmanned aircraft and a K-9 unit. K-9s are effective at tracking an individual but they are limited by obstacles like roofs and cliffs. From its position high above the search grid, an aircraft can locate an individual with optical and thermal cameras in the vicinity indicated by the K-9.
Aircraft and K-9 location data were relayed to command using ATAK or Android Team Awareness Kit and NSION’s connectivity platform. After the K-9 picked up the scent, the UAS pilot flew in the indicated direction to find the missing person alive and well. Adding the UAS component to a search leads to greater, more efficient search patterns while preventing false positives.
Much like a missing person incident, a wanted subject case poses similar challenges. Because the suspect is possibly armed, the threat to searchers is far greater.
The Wanted Subject scenario demonstrated how difficult these operations can be. After being stopped by police officers, the suspect fled his vehicle running into a densely wooded area – at night.
Both Matrice and Quantum Vector aircraft deployed, using their thermal capabilities to see into the forest. Because of the danger this situation presented, officers searched cautiously, using feeds from the aircraft to anticipate any surprises. Once the aircraft located the heat signature of the suspect, officers were able to close in on his position, apprehending him.
As in all of our scenarios, the NSION platform fed flight and video data back to the command post. This permitted the audience, far away from the incident, to be immersed in the exercise. More importantly, they witnessed how a UAS resource immensely mitigated the threat of an armed suspect in the woods. Officers were able to complete their mission safely, a primary mission of unmanned systems in public safety.
To wrap up the exciting week, FLYMOTION executed a water rescue scenario utilizing Guardian Centers’ 550,000-gallon flood basin which resembles the lower 9th Ward of New Orleans. Survivors trapped on the roof received life jackets dropped from a Matrice 300 flying overhead. Once in the water, Ocean Alpha’s Dolphin, a USRV—unmanned surface rescue vehicle—took the individuals safely to shore.
Unfortunately, in the real world, some individuals do not survive. In recovering the submerged casualty victim (portrayed by a dummy), the Chasing M2 Pro underwater system was sent ahead of the dive team on scene. Operators were able to locate the body and find the best path for the divers to enter the flooded structure. Any risk to first responders was significantly reduced while completing the mission of saving lives.
The NIST Training Courses
Observing technology in action is only one aspect of training. To understand the full potential of unmanned systems, the conference allocates time for attendees to fly their own drones. This happens both in scenario environments and in a variety of separate courses. Representatives of NIST, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, managed the UTAC training areas.
NIST is responsible for establishing standards across different technology fields with flight and robotic training being parts of those standards. In a typical NIST course, instructors test pilots on the accurate reading of the diagrams and symbols placed in white buckets scattered throughout a course. Characters varied in size, forcing pilots to get up close to read them. Some buckets were placed near obstructions or at awkward angles, testing both the pilot’s situational awareness and flying abilities.
This methodology accurately tests the hand-eye coordination required by public safety pilots to operate in challenging conditions. For example, a law enforcement pilot may need to fly close to a stopped vehicle to identify a suspect. A fire rescue pilot working on a structure fire or collapsed building will have to avoid obstacles. Both situations require agility and responsiveness gained during these conference training sessions.
The vision of UTAC takes the traditional conference beyond static displays. At FLYMOTION’s Unmanned Tactical Application Conference, demonstrations and industry connections are open doors to individual understanding and training. The out-of-the-classroom and the innovative atmosphere turn the varied experiences of first responders into resources for their counterparts. Participants walk away with more than business cards. They have a deeper and quantitative understanding of the application of unmanned systems for the safety of our communities.
PERRY, Ga. — FLYMOTION hosted its second annual Unmanned Tactical Application Conference at the Guardian Centers in Perry.
Hundreds of law enforcement and emergency management personnel are attending the five day conference that emphasizes the use of technology in eight realistic scenarios–from an active shooter situation, to tracking down a wanted subject, as well as natural disasters –like severe flooding.
“Technology is key. Giving them the ability to put something that is a piece of technology where you would normally put a human is life saving,” said Ryan English, CEO of FLYMOTION.
At UTAC 2021, first responders from across the country and world saw those scenarios play out and how the use of technology, like robots and drones, could change life threatening situations.
People from world renowned agencies, like New York Police Department and the Fire Department of New York, were there to instruct the demonstrations.
Actual first responders took part in the scenarios—from fire fighters with Houston County taking on a subway terrorist attack, to SWAT members from Warner Robins Police Department demonstrating an active shooter situation.
“The role players are actual law enforcement. Actual fire and rescue. I think that is key because the tactics are similar to what they would use on a day to day call,” said English.
During those demonstrations, drones and robots were used in various ways to learn details about a scene before first responders even went in.
Other uses of technology include an Emesent drone with a lidar system attached. The drone was sent in during the subway attack.
The LiDAR, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, was able to use lasers to map about the area before first responders went in–warning them of any potential dangers to expect.
Others there to observe also got time to work with the technology and run through the scenarios themselves.
“We are training departments to be able to deploy a drone unit or robot units so that it is now a part of the response.”
Romeo Durscher, the Vice President of Public Safety with Auterion, is dedicated to making technology that aids first responders.
On display during UTAC, was the company’s fixed wing, vertical take off and landing drone. According to Durscher, the drone takes off like a helicopter, then transitions to forward flight like a plane.
“We can now fly for a longer duration over an incident scene and through our Auterion system–live stream that data to incident command or wherever it is needed. This allows us to get eyes on the scene for up to two hours. That’s a huge benefit for public safety,” he explained.
But you don’t need a drone or device from Auterion to use their systems. The company has worked to standardize their software–making technology more straight forward and easier for first responders to get what they need.
“We have really learned a lot. How to integrate multiple types of robotics, from air to ground to water, and under water. All these devises help first responders to get better, faster data, to make better faster decisions,” Durscher says.
Through the accurate data unmanned systems provides, that better informs law enforcement and emergency management—lives could be saved.
“These departments will go home and they will be more proficient in the use of this technology, ultimately keeping their communities and keeping their colleagues safe.”
The success of several pioneering Law Enforcement UAS programs has prompted many other departments to follow suit. Case studies repeatedly highlight the advantages that unmanned aerial systems provide in public safety. Tactical operations, patrol functions, accident reconstruction, and search and rescue all benefit from UAS support.
While its benefits are appealing, starting a UAS program involves much more than buying a drone and putting your name on it. A department must consider the mission, budget restraints, community image, and legal implications to name a few. In this blog, we will provide an overview of these aspects needed for the launch of a successful drone program.
Defining the Mission
Before launching a police drone program, identify the needs of your department. Will your UAS program augment an existing Air Support Unit? Is the drone in question be the only aerial asset available? Will the aircraft be a first responder? Or, will it deploy during special incidents (search & rescue, SWAT operations, crime scene, and accident reconstruction, etc.)? How large is your area of jurisdiction? Finally, no question is as important as this one. What kind of budget has your department allocated for this effort?
These are some of the questions that need to be answered. Some of the answers may come from an analysis of department data. Consider the frequency of certain calls, their location, and resources. Other answers may come through collaboration with other divisions in the department. Defining the mission profile of your UAS program will determine three things: the type of regulations that apply, the model of aircraft needed, and the type of training.
Regulations are critical aspects of the process to figure out. Despite being a public safety pilot, keep in mind you are not exempt from federal regulations. Night operations, flights over crowds, and Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) flights all face restrictions. Therefore, taking time to figure out what limits you face will determine the proper waivers and training required.
Operators have two options for approaching flight regulations. One of those options is a Part 107 license. The other is a COA or Certificate of Waiver or Authorization for Public Aircraft Operations.
The FAA’s Part 107 brings UAS operations into the National Airspace System. One of the benefits of operating under Part 107 is the extensive training available for pilots and proof of instruction. Furthermore, pilots train under national standards which assists in the deployment of UAS outside the area of jurisdiction. However, there are some restrictions under Part 107.
- An operating altitude limit of 400 feet AGL (above ground level);
- Visual Line of Sight operations only;
- Liability falling solely on the pilot; and
- Daytime flights only
Under Part 107, you must obtain waivers and special permission for:
- Night operations
- Flying over crowds
- Flights in Class B, C, D, and E airspace
- Access to restricted airspace
Keep in mind that Part 107 suits civil operations best; it may not serve the needs of your public safety agency. Its relative ease of entry, however, may be enough to compensate for the additional restrictions.
Certificate of Authorization
Unlike Part 107, a Certificate of Authorization (COA) offers enormous operational flexibility to public safety agencies. But it does so at the cost of a longer and more difficult approval timeline because the plan needs to be approved by the FAA. Once approved, your UAS program will be able to:
- Fly in applicable regions of controlled airspace,
- Integrate a night operations waiver directly into a COA, and
- Fly over people with specific safety measures
Defining the mission profile and researching the applicable regulations will establish the foundation of a law enforcement UAS program. In the second part of this series, we will discuss various aircraft options used by other agency pilots. In addition, we will be covering training course considerations available on-site or at our headquarters.