The University of Alabama in Huntsville today unveiled new drone-like technology designed to enhance campus safety that someday may be available to help protect K-12 school systems.
At a news conference today, the school showed off a variety of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that will provide an “eye in the sky” for campus police, according to Gary Maddux, who is leading the research as director of the Systems Management and Production Center (SMAP).
Maddux said the shooting at a Connecticut elementary school in December pushed the languishing research into overdrive. Six months later, Maddux said the University of Alabama police department is scheduled to visit UAH next week to get a first-hand view of the UAV technology.
“We just want to be able to make a difference and we want to make a difference quickly and come up with something to help law enforcement,” Maddux said. “That’s what it’s all about – improving response times so maybe we could mitigate the next tragedy that could occur.”
Asked about privacy concerns that could arise with the UAVs, Maddux said the coverage they offer police is similar to fixed video cameras in most any parking lot.
“Obviously, we’re going to be very cognizant of any privacy issues for students,” Maddux said. “You can’t be flying your drone and look inside a dorm window. But you couldn’t do that if you were stationary or over in this building and had a line of sight to look in dorm window. It’s the same basic rules.”
This one is bound to get privacy pundits heading off into overdrive. Within a known environment what benefit does this technology bring over cameras on poles? A camera on a stick is a 24/7 all weather solution.
Sensationalism to promote civil UA use will not help the cause. The unmanned aircraft world is still looking for its hero. New technology seems to go unnoticed until it has a breakthrough moment. In 1845 the telegraph was in use but not setting the world alight, much like current UA systems.
All that changed when John Tawell poisoned his mistress Sarah. He made his escape on the fastest means of transport available at the time, the train.
He was seen leaving the scene of the crime and local police officers used the telegraph to signal ahead.
The Times reported that “Had it not been for the efficient aid of the electric telegraph, both at Slough and Paddington, the greatest difficulty, as well as delay, would have occurred in the apprehension”.
From that day, John Tawell became known as “The Man Hanged by the Electric Telegraph”.
The telegraph came of age and entered into public consciousness as a useful tool, sUAS are working around the world on GIS and agricultural missions but civilian unmanned aircraft still await their John Tawell story.
The platform being used in the UAH demonstration looks to be a DJI Spreading Wings currently a popular choice. It balances capability and cost nicely. They are popping up on TV all the time, we last saw one on the recent BBC Top gear Africa special.