Unmanned systems: U.S. law enforcement’s increasing UAS adoption, UAS college courses

In this week’s roundup from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), which highlights some of the latest news and headlines in unmanned vehicles and robotics, learn about a study which estimates that more than 900 law enforcement agencies in the U.S. are deploying unmanned aerial systems (UAS). Additionally, learn more a federal grant that will enable students to receive "microcredentials" for the UAS industry, and a new vertical takeoff and landing capability for a Lockheed Martin UAS.

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In this week’s roundup from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International(AUVSI), which highlights some of the latest news and headlines in unmanned vehicles and robotics,learn about a study which estimates that more than 900 law enforcement agencies in the U.S. are deploying unmanned aerial systems (UAS). Additionally, learn more a federal grant that will enable students to receive "microcredentials" for the UAS industry, and a new vertical takeoff and landing capability for a Lockheed Martin UAS.

Study estimates that more than 900 law enforcement agencies in U.S. have UAS

The Center for the Study of the Drone at New York's Bard College estimates that more than 900 police, sheriff, fire and emergency agencies have UAS.

Data collected by the center shows that this number has more than doubled since the end of 2016, and according to the study, agencies in Texas, California, and Wisconsin have the most UAS.

Agencies with UAS are utilizing this technology for a variety of tasks, including to take photos of car accidents, guide firefighters through burning buildings and search for missing people and murder suspects.

Some users of this technology believe that UAS could change policing in a similar fashion to how laptops in patrol cars, two-way radios and K-9 units changed policing.

"With this new environment we're in with active shooters and mass shooters, you can be all over a school campus and see everyone who's running out," says Grady Judd, a Florida sheriff, via Fox 5 NY. This year, Judd bought 20 UAS to cover all of Polk County night and day.

According to Judd, UAS are a cheaper alternative to sending a helicopter into the air, and they also allow for a faster response time. UAS equipped with thermal imaging can also be used to spot suspects at night.

"You can have a bad guy in a clump of palmettos pointing a gun at you and you can't see him at all," Judd explains. "Every agency will have these teams in the future."

Research collected by the center shows that more than twice as many agencies own UAS as do those that operate helicopters and planes.

Most of the agencies with UAS are smaller departments in "rural and smaller departments"; a stark difference from users of manned aircraft operations, which are centered in heavily populated places.

Mohawk Valley Community College receives grant that will help prepare students for UAS industry

The National Science Foundation has awarded Mohawk Valley Community College (MVCC) a $557,487 grant to support a project in which MVCC will develop a series of "microcredentials" to increase the number of skilled technicians in the UAS industry, and ultimately address local workforce needs.

Over the next three years, MVCC will develop and implement five microcredentials made up of four courses each, which will provide students with "highly specialized, specific skills" without requiring completion of a full degree. The microcredentials are UAS Components, UAS Fabrication, UAS Operations, UAS Electronics, and UAS Data Analysis.

The grant money will also be used to launch two new degree programs: associate in applied science degrees in UAS Fabrication and UAS Electronics by innovating ways to merge the microcredentials into comprehensive and coherent packages.

"This timely project addresses the imminent, crucially important UAS workforce demands of the nation – demands that are foreshadowed by the current industry needs of the Mohawk Valley region of Upstate New York," says Timothy Thomas, associate dean of the Physical Sciences, Engineering, and Applied Technologies Department at MVCC.

"Our region has become a national hub of drone technology research and development and, as such, we are observing an emerging need for UAS technicians with a specialized set of skills for working with remotely piloted systems."

MVCC will also be able to use the grant to buy new equipment, including a microdrone; sensor packages that will enable agricultural and infrastructure inspection; and remote-sensing technology that emits light pulses, LIDAR.

MVCC says that this equipment, along with existing cutting-edge UAS technology that it already owns, will help students as they prepare for UAS careers in a variety of fields, including emergency services, inspections, and in the agricultural and consumer electronics industries.

With photo: Lockheed Martin VTOL Stalker XE

Lockheed Martin's Stalker eXtended Endurance UAS receives VTOL capability upgrade

Lockheed Martin has announced that its Stalker eXtended Endurance UAS has received a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capability upgrade, which, according to Lockheed, gives users "greater mission flexibility," and allows them to operate the system in more "austere locations."

Aside from featuring a reduced logistics footprint, the new VTOL option also expands how and where the Stalker XE UAS may operate. Additionally, Lockheed notes that other launch alternatives include a pneumatic rail or a standard bungee launch system.

"By offering three unique launch options, we will support day or night flight operations in a variety of environments, expanding Stalker XE’s ability to do more with less," explains Russell Coons, Stalker XE program manager.

"We continue to evolve the system to bring more capability to our system operators."

An "operationally proven, small, silent" UAS, Stalker XE provides long-endurance imaging capability through image stabilized pan, tilt, zoom on electro-optical, infrared, low-light and high-def imagers, along with an image tracker.

The UAS also features a "digital backbone" that allows for rapid plug and play of the latest technology, which means better pictures and more capabilities.

Capable of operating in all types of weather, Stalker XE has a 12-foot wingspan, and weighs 24 pounds with standard payloads. Lockheed says that depending on payloads and launch option, Stalker XE can fly up to eight hours with a propane fuel cell, or up to four hours with a battery option at a cruise speed of 35 miles per hour.

View more information on the AUVSI.

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