Holm Auto Good News: Free drone operations webinar offered to emergency management agencies

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Holm Auto Good News: Free drone operations webinar offered to emergency management agencies
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Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus will be hosting a free webinar on unmanned aircraft systems operations from noon to 1 p.m. April 15 to help guide law enforcement, fire and emergency agencies in developing a successful UAS operation.

As UAS […]


Scott McCloud, left, Newton High School teacher, learns the basics of flying the S1000 Unmanned Aircraft System drone from Mike Kuni, Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus UAS pilot and flight instructor, during the free five-day UAS course offered to Kansas teachers and principals in 2019. K-State Polytechnic will be hosting a free webinar on unmanned aircraft systems operations from noon to 1 p.m. April 15.

Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus will be hosting a free webinar on unmanned aircraft systems operations from noon to 1 p.m. April 15 to help guide law enforcement, fire and emergency agencies in developing a successful UAS operation.

As UAS gains popularity, public safety organizations across the country are adopting the technology to perform actions such as conducting fugitive searches, conducting search-and-rescue missions, and locating heat signatures in dangerous situations with thermal sensors.

“K-State Polytechnic strives to support fire, law enforcement and emergency management professionals and their use of UAS,” said Kurt Carraway, UAS department head and executive director of the K-State Polytechnic Applied Aviation Research Center. “... We recognize the important role UAS plays in public safety and want to support organizations in embracing UAS."

The polytechnic campus has organized similar in-person events in previous years to educate people, the pandemic forced its sessions into a virtual setting.

“Last year, with all the restrictions there was just not a lot of interaction with that community, so we thought it was time to roll out something for them,” said Travis Balthazor, the UAS flight operations manager at K-State Polytechnic.

They also offer UAS courses in law enforcement and fire/HAZMAT response training, that take students with little-to-no experience and help them earn a federal UAS license, as well as giving them skills to take back to their own fields.

Balthazor expects 200 people to attend the webinar, which will include guest panelists Sgt. Matthew Halton, supervisor of the Salina PD’s UAS program, and Deputy Jason Grubbs of Story County, Iowa. The participants are usually split between firefighters, sheriff's offices and local police departments.

The webinar also includes a budgeting segment to help attendees understand the full cost of a UAS system, which can range from as low as $5,000 for a basic system to up to $40,000.

Drones on the lower end typically weigh 2 pounds and include just a stabilized camera gimble, while the expensive ones weigh up to 20 pounds and can carry multiple payloads. Those have standard cameras with large zoom lenses, infrared cameras for thermal vision, and sometimes a payload drop system attached.

“There’s a plethora of different bolt-ons, so to speak, that you can put on there,” Balthazor said. “You got flashlights, spotlights, speakers, all kinds of different stuff that you can throw on there to be utilized for the application you’re actually flying for. There’s a lot more versatility with those larger systems.”

Public service agencies struggle on occasion with recognizing the other equipment that can come with a UAS.

“A lot of the time, they don’t understand each individual component that they need,” he said. “It’s not just an aircraft, there is the addition of backup batteries, and generators that charge those batteries, and a plethora of different things they may not have considered.”

The discussion helps departments avoid an issue in which they only buy the aircraft and its basic surrounding parts, but they are unable to effectively use the system as it should be once out in the field.

Communities can have trouble buying in to support those organizations having a UAS due to privacy concerns, despite the pre-existing restrictions on usage in residential areas and the lack of incidents that stem from violations committed by public service agencies.

During the webinar, there will be a Q&A session that will allow for the law enforcement experts on the panel to interact with participants and explain how to introduce the UAS technology to communities to build trust.

UAS’ increased popularity in recent years stems from its usage capabilities in public service agencies, and other fields such as agriculture and industrial inspection. In a variety of situations, those cameras can get closer than a person on the ground could and take high quality pictures.

Balthazor explained that the systems are a cost-effective measure that save organizations from having to hire a helicopter pilot to perform a visual inspection from a farther distance when dealing with power lines or a similar instance.

“They’re not taking pictures, they're just visually inspecting it. So, the data that they’re collecting is not even comparable, because with the UAS they’re getting physical data that they can collect and go back and look over at a later time.”

The webinar is free, but registration is required by noon Friday, April 14.

Visit polytechnic.k-state.edu/public-safety-webinar to learn more.