At the Aug. 4 event near Leonardtown, Aviation Systems Engineering Co. (ASEC), in collaboration with Smartronix, worked with public-safety officials to deploy electro-optic and thermal sensors on board small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).
St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office, Hollywood Volunteer Fire Department and Leonardtown Volunteer Fire Department provided personnel and resources for three scenarios that integrated drones into incident response. A nearby county school hosted informational presentations, technology booths and streaming drone video for the over 100 attendees.
Smartronix provided integrated communication links, connecting St. Mary’s first-responder radios with different radios used by neighboring Calvert County’s fire departments and tactical radios typically used by National Guard units. Radio communications and narrator audio were integrated with streaming video from the drones and made available on a dedicated website, providing the public an opportunity to watch.
ASEC, which holds a Federal Aviation Administration exemption for the DJI Inspire T600 and DJI Phantom, piloted the drones as directed by the incident commander, who provided general verbal commands via the policeman or fireman.
The first demonstration was a barricaded residence that contained a possible armed suspect – requiring the police to set up a safety perimeter. The drone camera was used to assess police positions and images of the house that were streamed via video to the police mobile command center.
The second demonstration was a rural search-and-rescue mission for a lost individual – using a thermal sensor to scan for a human heat signature in various terrains and vegetation.
The final demonstration also used a thermal sensor to provide live video of a burning, single-story house. An adjacent property had two condemned residences – one of which was burned for the demonstration.
These tests gave first responders an opportunity to assess this technology in a safe, controlled and compliant environment. Two quadcopters were flown simultaneously – one in direct support of the demonstration and the other as a broadcast drone.