Drones

Tethered drone gets licensed for use in law enforcement

Tethered drone gets licensed f...
The Fotokite drone, shown here as part of the Axon Air system
The Fotokite drone, shown here as part of the Axon Air system
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The Fotokite drone, shown here as part of the Axon Air system
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The Fotokite drone, shown here as part of the Axon Air system

Drones may be seeing increased use by police forces, but the things are still limited by relatively short flight times, and the need for certified operators. Public safety tech company Axon has set out to address the problem, by leveraging the existing Fotokite tethered drone.

We first heard about the Fotokite in 2015.

Designed by Russian roboticist Sergei Lupashin, it's essentially an electric quadcopter on a long, reeled tether. That tether delivers power up from a ground-based high-capacity battery or electrical outlet, plus it relays real-time HD video down from the drone's onboard camera. This means that the aircraft can stay aloft in one location for hours a time, continuously transmitting video.

And while the drone can be manually controlled via a smartphone or tablet, it can also fly autonomously, simply holding a given altitude and orientation. What's more, because it's safely tethered to the ground, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allows it to be flown in urban areas without the need for waivers or an operator's license.

That's one of the main reasons it's been incorporated into the new Axon Air system.

Instead of waiting for a certified pilot to arrive at a crime or accident scene, police officers could immediately deploy the drone themselves. It would then hover at an altitude of up to 150 feet (46 m), continuously providing a real-time bird's eye view of the situation. The video can be live-streamed to a command center, plus it can also be logged in the company's Axon Evidence system.

Axon Air could additionally be utilized in applications such as traffic management, routine surveillance, or search and rescue. It should be available to law enforcement agencies in the US and Canada next year – pricing has yet to be announced.

Source: Axon

5 comments
Mike Johnson
WOW- Great story and you nailed it
Pablo
And it'll be a matter of time and we'll have code enforcement using them to make sure we haven't built an unlicensed tree house... HOAs will find it just that much easier to pry into our personal affairs inside the back fence and confirm that pet door is an authorized color and those trash cans are the right brand.
JHarrison
Pablo NAILED it! "And it'll be a matter of time and we'll have code enforcement using them to make sure we haven't built an unlicensed tree house..."
BlueOak
Agreed on the privacy issues.

We need competent legislators who understand how technology affects privacy. And Judges with the same skills - who can likely offer citizens protection, simply by leveraging existing law.

As it applies to Drones, a start: Govt employees or their representatives shall not use aerial devices to surveil private property in such a way as cannot be viewed by persons naturally standing on the ground from public property, without a search warrant.

It seems a judge could use exiting law to require a search warrant in such cases.
Techrex
?? It just occurred to me, that there might be a valid way, to completely eliminate all wild, high-speed police car races, to capture a felon driving away at over 100 mph, that often results in horrible accidents and loss of life and property occurring. Instead of actually chasing the fleeing felon racing away in automobiles, the policemen nearest to that event can launch a flying drone after him. Although, with present electrical battery power limits, the flying drone can only chase the racing car for about 1/2 hour, before it runs out of juice, it CAN quickly fly close enough to dive bomb the car, with a magnet-rigged cellphone, that clings to it. We already have the established tracking APPs with cellphones, to track the car all over the map! Eventually, the racing car must run out of gas, or the fleeing driver park and run away on foot, but this remote tracking option, and coordination by law enforcement agents, across the areas the car travels over, would usually result in the capture of the felon, WITHOUT the great loss of lives and property damage the SOP police car chases usually ends up in. Also, it might be feasible to ask the car insurance companies, to install such special drone systems everywhere such car chases happen a lot, because that could save them many millions of dollars in the long run!