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By Stephenie Slahor

Kids and teens love to play with drones. Adults enjoy the challenges of flying and photographing from them. Industry, agriculture and public service know the benefits drones can bring to observation and analyses. Judges and juries have a “witness” perspective never before seen in criminal and civil cases, thanks to the drone.

But drones can also be misused and they sometimes present serious threats to safety and security.

Addressing the countermeasures and emerging threats from unmanned aerial vehicles or drones were Adam Ringle, CPP President and CEO of Adam Ringle Consulting, LLC, Bruce E. Wimmer, CPP, Senior Regional Consultant at G4S, Kenneth Fauth, CPP, Vice-President and Managing Director of Kenneth Fauth, Inc., and  James

A. Acevedo, CPP, CPS, Executive Director of International Operations at Andrews International.  They presented a panel discussion  about unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) at the 61st Annual International Meeting of ASIS, the world’s leading organization for security professionals.

Adam Ringle explained that UAVs have both a positive and negative impact on security, but the industry is quickly becoming hugely profitable and shows no sign of slowing. Moving from the expense of aerial imaging and surveillance via planes and helicopters, to imaging and surveillance by means of a UAV that is relatively inexpensive and hand launched has revolutionized photography  and what can be learned from aerial imagery or recordings. The UAV has proven itself in being cheaper, better and safer than piloted imaging and surveillance, a11d it has had repercussions in civil, criminal, legal and entertainment circles.  UAVs are less disturbing than a helicopter, Ringle said, and they are also less subject to human error. Their quality is improving and both video and still imagery can be provided. If proper standards are followed,  their images are even admissible in court.

UAVs range from simple to complicated. Ringle said that for much of police work, in about ten minutes of flight time and SD or micro SD storage of images, most police agencies can gather what they need for most situations. Caution must be taken to reduce the danger or magnitude of an accident or crash involving the UAV. The model chosen should have a mode that if the controller is dropped, the craft will hover until control can be regained.

Pilot and spotter  training are important, he said.  Users should  team how to hover the craft at specific heights, and must learn how to control the unit. Spotters should be present at any flight of a UAV. All training should be documented for possible presentation in court in case of liability for misuse of the UAV. Training should involve use, piloting and at least two work days in open space to gain competency in flying the UAV.  High-hazard  training can also be added such as how to fly around power lines  and poles, WiFi towers, buildings or other obstacles.  Spotters should be at each end of the field at practice, but also when the unit is being used for actual work, not just training.

In choosing a UAV, Ringle advised looking for a unit that has such features as easy set up, GPS-enabled, feedback and input on the controls, and LED indicators. Also, it should have batteries that are changeable without having to recalibrate the unit. Batteries should recharge quickly. Parts should be easy to replace. Hovering should be easy to do, and flying and landing the unit should be intuitive and easy.  Images should be true and sharp.

Ringle emphasized that UAVs can cause injury or property damage and there is no room for error in flying them. Also, if its signal is hacked, it can easily become a loose drone.

Therefore, he advised having a written policy in place about checking the UAV every time it is going to be flown, the use of the UAV, the training required of each pilot and spotter, risk avoidance, identifying potential hazards (power lines, transmitter towers, etc.) and how to meet or handle them, and how to do a pre-flight checklist. That flight list should be followed each time the UAV is used.  There also needs to be minimum flight criteria, description of the training required before someone can pilot the UAV, and emergency action plans for property damage, injury or other problems.  “If there is any doubt, don’t launch,” Ringle stated.

The UAV will have a user’s manual and that should be used for information on the use, cautions, pre-flight checks, and maintenance and storage of the unit.

“Expect the unexpected,” Ringle said. Have a “what if” of knowing how liable you are for the drone.

Bruce Wimmer pointed out that UAVs now present potential problems never before experienced such as a UAV that flies into a situation involving executive protection, events, workplaces, emergency response settings, controlled areas, “no fly zones” or “secure” buildings. The operator of a UAV could be anyone including a thief, extortionist, smuggler, assassin, disgruntled worker, saboteur, hacker, business spy, paparazzi, peeping Tom, terrorist, or just a person whose UAV went astray accidentally, but Wimmer said there must be law enforcement preparation for the threats and vulnerabilities that could be posed by UAVs. He added that even the security of the White House was twice disrupted by errant UAVs, as have a recent pro tennis tournament, a university’s scoreboard during a game, and other incidents. He said one instance involved a UAV “disguised” as a bird that just sat on a sill-while recording business secrets taking place in the office being spied upon. Wimmer added that UAVs are not strictly “air” devices. There are underwater versions, too. A skilled hacker can take over a UAV in the air, on land or in the water.

Ken Fauth said safety and security concerns from interference, or loss of control, or wrongful use can raise liability questions in both criminal and civil realms.

James Acevedo concluded that, while there are countermeasures such as nets that can be cast to catch an errant UAV, such “last resort” measures could be unnecessary if departments take the time to study and plan for the ramifications of one of the fastest-growing hobbies as people buy and use UAVs. Prepare now, the panel advised.

Stephenie Slahor, Ph.D., J.D., writes in the fields of law enforcement and security.


Published in Police Fleet Manager, May/Jun 2017

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sUAS License Required

Posted on : Jul 21 at 3:21 PM By Parks "Skip" Christenbury, CTO, Strafford County S

Excellent article except for one important caveat: your PIC (Pilot in Command) must be sUAS licensed by the FAA under part 107 riles. Failure to have a licensed pilot at the controls will have very serious consequences for your agency, especially in regards to a reportable incident or accident!

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