Inside Unmanned Systems

AUG 2015

Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.

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71 unmanned systems inside September/October 2015 ENGINEERING. PRACTICE. POLICY. Photos courtesy of Social, Therapeutic, and Robotic Systems (STaRS) Lab at Mississippi State University While many law enforcement agen- cies are turning to UAS, unmanned ground systems can also provide many benef ts. For the last four years, Cindy Bethel, director of the Social, Therapeutic, and Robotic Systems (STaRS) Lab at Mis- sissippi State University has worked with the Starkville Police Department to build an economical ground robot for use in tactical situations. She spent the f rst year observing the agency and talking with them about how a ground robot could help make their jobs easier and safer. For the last three years, the department has been integrating robots into their training. They mainly train to deploy the robots in slow and methodical search, Bethel said, and can use them as distraction devices. They can put high intensity LED lights on a robot, and then roll the robot into a dark room so off cers can see what's going on before they enter. Using them in hostage negotiations is another application, enabling off cers to stay at a safe distance while communi- cating through the robot. Rather than being fully autonomous, Bethel said, these robots offer super- vised autonomy. "The robot conveys back to the of- f cer what its intended next movement would be, and the off cer can let it make that movement or override the command," Bethel said. "Typically one off cer completely controls the robot, taking that off cer out of operation. We're trying to make the robots autono- mous while also giving the off cers the ability to override the autonomy if they need them to do something different." The agency hasn't deployed the robots in the f eld yet—something Bethel hopes will happen in the next year or so—but Captain Mark Ballard said his off cers have learned a lot about how to work with the robots and how they can help in the f eld, and describes them as a "tremendous tool in the tactical environment." "For us the loss of life is very real. Tacti- cal environments are inherently danger- ous," said Ballard, who is the liaison between the department and the univer- sity. "When you deal with a tactical situ- ation, accurate information is everything. Robots give us inside knowledge of the environment we're operating in, without placing life in danger. That's huge." The Starkville agency is small—about 50 sworn off cers in total—and their SWAT team only has 12 members. The robots serve as a "force multiplier" and can cover entry ways and hallways in large buildings so the team doesn't lose an off cer to those tasks. The robots can also bring equipment and supplies to off cers once they are deep inside a large building, another huge advantage. While the team is primarily focusing on ground robots for now, Ballard said he is interested in the benef ts UAS can provide. They haven't applied for authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration, but they have begun f ying UAS inside large buildings. That way they can train and be prepared for when they can f y them legally. USING GROUND ROBOTS FOR A TACTICAL ADVANTAGE The Dr. Robot Jaguar V4 modif ed to include high intensity LED lights and speakers for sound effect such as sirens, alarms, dog barking, etc. The modif cations are used for distractions in law enforcement operations. Starkville, MS Off cer using an Android device to receive messages and images from the Clearpath Husky robot for determining the robot's intent for upcoming movements. ing public trust is key, as is making sure officers are properly trained to operate the systems, systems that can help improve public safety, save agencies money, improve efficiencies and even save lives. "It's really still in the early days of using UAS in public safety," Proulx said. "As more agencies get their hands on this technology, we'll see an even greater spread of applications for these aircraft."

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