Images from drones are appearing everywhere. From aerial video and photographs of real estate for sale to overhead shots of family activities are being captured by drone pilots.
Central Alabama Community College (CACC) is using short camps to introduce students to drones, science and CACC.
CACC instructor Michael Mann allowed students to fly drones and several organizations such as the Alabama Forestry Commission and the Tallapoosa County Narcotics Task Force (TCNTF) visited with students explaining how the organizations use drones. TCNTF’s Chad Jones said drones offer visuals to law enforcement without putting officers at as much risk.
“After a SWAT team breaches a house where someone is barricaded in, a drone can be flown in and help determine where they are and what tactics they might be using,” Jones said. “When a command center is brought in, let’s say for an active shooter and there are (officers) on the ground, the drone can supply information to administration and decision makers, who are removed from the heat of the moment to see what is going on without issues of communication.”
Jones said the task force has two drones. The different size drones have different capabilities and have different power requirements.
“If you are going to carry more weight, you have to have more motor,” Mann told the students. “If you have more motor, you have to have more battery. More battery weighs more. You can double the battery but you might not get any more life out of the drone.”
Jones has access to a DJI Inspire 2, the first drone purchased by the task force. It is large and can be seen easily at its maximum legal altitude of 400 feet. Jones also has a DJI Mavic. In both cases, Jones has a set of chores to make sure the drones are available for use at all times.
“Keeping up with battery life is one of the challenges,” Jones said. “You have to keep up with it because it will keep you from flying. Even though (the Inspire 2) requires two batteries, we get no additional flight time. If we don’t keep these charged, they start going down.
“On Mondays the first thing I do is put these on charge. If something happens, we don’t have time to wait for them to charge if a situation arises where the drone is needed.”
Jones said he has the necessary license to fly a drone and it’s the same for anyone else not doing recreational flying.
“Basically if you are making money flying a drone, you have to have a (FAA) Part 107 license,” Jones said. “They are pretty strict at what you can and cannot do.”
Jones has also received tons of training to fly drones for law enforcement purposes.
Mann said CACC’s drones, DJI Minis, are smaller than what Jones flies with the task force but have some advantages.
“We can’t carry any payload,” Jones said. “They will fly longer and make a video.”
Mann and others at CACC hope to have another drone camp before the end of summer to introduce more students to campus and drones.