UVT's Definitive Guide to Drones in Law Enforcement

February 24, 2022 by
UVT's Definitive Guide to Drones in Law Enforcement
Adam Hoing

Understanding the ins-and-outs of drones and establishing a fleet from the ground up is hard enough. Convincing the powers that be to provide the necessary funding to your department is another feat entirely.

That’s where UVT comes in. Before you is an FAQ of the most common and vital questions to anyone who needs to quickly acquaint themselves — or someone else — with what we do and how we help law enforcement agencies.

How can drones be used for law enforcement?

In two words: safety & efficiency. Consider the following examples:

  • A police station receives a call to respond to a severe motor vehicle accident. The resulting traffic prevents the officer from assessing the scene of the crash. One officer pulls to the shoulder and, instead of lugging out a faro scanner, quickly deploys their drone and analyzes the scene. By pairing drone-captured images with forensic photogrammetry software, the officer reconstructs the accident in approximately 15 minutes while out of harm's way.

  • Surveying a large protest in a tight metropolitan area is difficult. Utilizing several drones allows officers to monitor the protest from unique vantage points and ensure safety for everyone involved.

  • Law enforcement is preparing to serve a warrant to a dangerous suspect at their residence. A drone from above provides real-time data in the event that the suspect tries to flee or fight.

  • A child goes missing and the call is placed to dispatch. The first officer arrives on scene and begins planning a search pattern using a drone outfitted with a thermal camera to survey the subject's last known location. Communicating with a second patrol, the team uses the information captured by the drone above to locate, retrieve and return the child safely.

The advantages don’t end with these scenarios. From search-and-rescue calls to accident reconstruction and forensic photogrammetry, there is no shortage of callouts that require the right combination of drones, payloads, and software. Ultimately, our mission is to empower your agency and its collaborators.

Why should my agency invest in a drone fleet?

Drones are a force multiplier, increasing your team's efficiency many times over.

In recent years, law enforcement budgets have been stretched thin, but the number of calls and agency responsibilities have stayed the same, if not increased. Departments are recruiting in lower numbers than ever before, so equipping officers with the right drones can amplify their individual effectiveness to that of a small ground crew.

What drones should my agency buy?

That depends on you and your territory’s needs. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to creating and scaling a fleet, but here are few things to consider that UVT will review with you:

  • What is your budget range?

  • What are your most common callouts?

  • What drones do neighboring agencies use? If you frequently collaborate with them, you may choose to purchase the drones and/or payloads they do not possess, or you may want to purchase a drone that is cross-compatible with their equipment to increase your regional operational capacity.

  • How many pilots does your agency have now? How many pilots will your agency have before the next budget cycle? In many cases, it’s better to have multiple drones that can outfit multiple vehicles/pilots rather than one larger system that is dedicated to a station, pilot, or other location.

While each fleet is different, we at UVT follow the motto: one is none and two is one. Because drones act as force multipliers, a single, expensive aircraft may not be the right fit. Instead, we encourage you to invest in multiple drones that serve different and complementary functions. For example:

  • The DJI Mavic 3 Enterprise Series QuickTac Bundle or the Autel EVO II 640T V3  QuickTac Bundle for their radiometric thermal sensors, detailed imaging, or any call that requires quick response and versatility through uncertain conditions.

  • The DJI Matrice 350 RTK QuickTac Bundle for all-around use, thanks to its large operational range, long flight time, and expansive payload catalog unmatched by most.

  • Fixed Wing solutions for those seeking unparalleled flight time and operational range.

Drones can do more than gather visual data through various cameras. Different payloads provide totally separate functionality, whether its a speaker, glass breaker, spotlight, or payload drop system.

We also recommend you leave a portion of your budget to invest in everything that drives the efficiency of your fleet, including personnel training, permits, remote monitors, software, and other auxiliary equipment.

What certifications, licenses or training is required to fly a drone?

Legal access to the National Airspace System (NAS) can be granted by obtaining a Part 91 Certificate of Authorization (COA) for public operations or a Part 107 certification for commercial drone work.

The COA is simply an agency-level authorization to access national airspace for public operations use. There is no test — you only need to apply.

The Part 107 certification is granted by passing a test and must be renewed every two years. In the course of studying and taking the test, you will gain lots of useful airspace knowledge.

UVT believes it is best to earn both for a more well-rounded knowledge of procedure and etiquette. Also, it is likely that a fire or police department’s operations will not be completely covered by only the COA.

Ironically, the Federal Aviation Administration does not require drone pilots to be formally trained before entering the NAS; agencies must develop their own drills. That is why it is essential to partner with a drone-solutions provider who will not only deliver equipment, but show you how to effectively operate it and install a specialty focus/situation-based training program.

How long does it take to start a drone fleet?

Similar to deciding the composition of your fleet, your timeline depends partly on you and partly on the government.

Once you have fulfilled the requirements for your licenses, it can take between one week and three months to actually receive your 107, while the COA can take anywhere from three weeks to eight months. From there the average turnaround time is 30 days. Initial hardware training is quick; you only need about a day or two to learn the system, standard practices, and maintenance. However, mastering your aircraft can take many hours of practice and field application.

Procedures, software training, and drills take longer and their exact length depends on the agency. A capable drone-solutions provider will work with you at your pace.

How is UVT different from other drone dealers?

We don’t sell/recommend equipment without a thorough examination of your situation and we don’t simply drop drones off at your front porch before disappearing forever. The systems we offer have gone through an extensive vetting process, ensuring we only deliver the very best the industry has to offer.

UVT was born out of a passion for law enforcement. In fact, many of our team members currently and formerly worked in law enforcement and public safety, which is why we are committed to providing solutions, not just drones.

Simple Government Procurement

UVT is proud to partner with Sourcewell, providing our customers easy access to more affordable solutions by combining the power of a purchasing cooperative

We provide many purchasing options. From procurement cooperatives like Sourcewell to leasing, a purchase from us unlocks a lifelong partnership where we will share our situational expertise, ensure proper program integration and implementation, and provide total follow-through. The latter includes 24/7 on-call support from a live representative, because we’re always here when you need us.

If you have any questions specific to your situation that you couldn’t find here, give us a call at 844-595-8010 or send a message on our website.

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