Agencies participate in public safety drone training

MADISON, Ala. (WHNT) — Monday kicked off a two-day drone event, hosted by Adorama Drones, for law enforcement and public safety agencies across Alabama.

Different vendors came in to showcase the latest in drone technology. There were also live demonstrations and educational presentations.

“Drone technology is being used by public safety all across the county,” said C.J. Smith, a marketing manager with Adorama Drones.

Smith said the events are a great way to expose public safety organizations to the latest technology, in a way that is applicable to their day-to-day work.

“We have ex-public safety specialist on our team that can really speak that language and are able to come out here and talk from experience” he continued.

Agencies are able to take some of the drones for a test drive themselves, and see close up how they work.

“It’s just a great way for them (law enforcement) to kind of understand the technology and see how it might fit into their operations” Smith said.

News 19 attended the training on Monday, and saw representatives from Madison Police, Huntsville Police, Decatur Police, Scottsboro Police, and many others across North Alabama.

During the first day, Wayne Baker with DJI, a drone company, gave a demonstration of their newest model, the Matrice 30. Baker showed how the drone can aid in police searches and search and rescue missions. From high in the sky, the camera affixed to the drone could zoom in and follow a specific car and license plate.

Wayne Baker with DJI, mirrored the screen on the drone controller to a TV screen, showing the tracking and zoom capabilities of DJI’s latest drone model.

In addition to technology that can help officers find suspects, Baker also emphasized how it can be used in search and rescue situations.

“In public safety when seconds count, the ability to get this aircraft in the air in just a few seconds can mean the difference between finding somebody before something bad happens to them” Baker stated.

He also emphasized how drones can help public safety members get better eyes on a scene, without having to risk their lives by entering the unknown.

“These drones save police officers lives, and firefighters lives and the public,” he continued.

Baker said DJI also supply drones to power companies. He stated those companies, as well as public safety agencies can use drones after severe weather events to search for lost people, find the source of power outages, and survey and map damage.

The DJI Matrice 30 drone.

News 19 also spoke with Chad Tillman, the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Coordinator for the City of Huntsville. He primarily works with Huntsville Police.

Tillman said one of the biggest benefits to an event like this one is allowing members from different agencies to discuss and learn from one another.

“We talk together and we share the way that we’re doing things, and the way we’re trying to grow, because it’s a learning process for everybody,” he told News 19.

Tillman also said Huntsville is in a great position when it comes to the implementation and access to drone resources.

“We actually have quite a number of drones” Tillman continued. “I believe Huntsville Fire & Rescue has 6 or 7, and Huntsville Police has about 20” he continued.

He also shared how he wants to reassure the public about any privacy concerns when it comes to the use of drones. He said if anything, drones help increase the safety of everyone.

“One of the things we’ve found in using drones, is that it introduces a level of safety we haven’t seen before,” Tillman said. “For example, if we have a barricaded subject, if I can put a drone in the air and get over there and give the officers a better view of what’s happening, they can meter their response based on what they see.”

“Those initial contact moments, we can give more information to the people making those decisions, so we’re actually finding that it increases the safety of both the citizen and the police officer” he concluded.

Tillman also said in order for a Huntsville Police Officer to become a drone pilot, they must have already been a sworn-in officer for at least a year.

“We want them to have a good level of experience with the public, because this is a position where the chances of interacting with the public are high,” Tillman stated.

After they’ve been an officer for at least a year, they can start the rigorous drone pilot training program.

“We want to make sure we put our best foot forward, Tillman concluded.

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