The Daytona Beach, Fla., Police Department (DBPD) and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) have announced a new aviation program made up of five officers and two unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).
“Anything we can get to protect our citizens and our visitors, to keep them safe, we’re going to do,” said Daytona Beach Police Chief Craig Capri during a news conference on Thursday. “I’m very excited about this new technology, and it’s going to save lives.”
The five officers are going through training with ERAU so that they can become certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to fly the drones, Capri said. The university launched its Unmanned and Autonomous Systems Operations program back in 2011.
“All three of our campuses – the Daytona Beach; Prescott, Ariz.; and Worldwide campuses have UAS programs, either at the baccalaureate level or at the graduate level,” said Joe Cerreta, an associate professor in the university’s College of Aviation at Daytona Beach.
According to the university, the DBPD aviation program will build upon what Cerreta and other Daytona Beach and Worldwide faculty members learned through a recent study-away program in Oklahoma, where students leveraged UAS to survey damage following an EF2 tornado in Elk City and to locate a lost herd of cattle from massive flooding in another part of the state.
“We wanted to bring that knowledge home,” Cerreta explained at the news conference.
Anthony Galante, assistant professor of aeronautical science, emphasized at the conference that the DBPD aviation program would not infringe on anyone’s privacy. The program will strictly adhere to Department of Justice guidelines concerning respect for civil liberties, Galante said, and it will be “completely reactive,” encompassing search-and-rescue operations and the assessment of crime scenes.
ERAU will assist the DBPD with a requirements analysis process to recommend a best-fit UAS for the department, Cerreta said. As a start, five officers will begin to learn how to operate UAS using Embry-Riddle’s existing drones, which are equipped with wide-field-of-view cameras that are not capable of capturing extreme close-ups of a scene. Cerreta and Galante noted further that the university will assist the police department in developing and implementing transparent safety and management policies and procedures.
As the officers await FAA approval to pursue hands-on UAS flights, they are taking online courses through Embry-Riddle’s Office of Professional Education and Embry-Riddle Worldwide.
“It’s a great collaboration,” says David Thirtyacre, flight department chair at Embry-Riddle’s Worldwide Campus, via the press release. “I’ll be excited to see how the DBPD uses this technology to improve public safety.” Thirtyacre is credited with first contacting Chief Capri to discuss the ERAU-DBPD partnership