WhiteFox Defense’s STRATUS provides Austin public safety agencies crucial airspace awareness.
South by Southwest, the iconic conference and festival that celebrates the convergence of tech, film, music, education, and culture in Austin, Texas, returned to its full level of excitement in March 2022, welcoming hundreds of thousands to the city’s downtown for 10 days. The City of Austin’s public safety agencies had a new tool in their toolbox to ensure the safety of the festival: WhiteFox Defense’s STRATUS drone detection system.
During SXSW, the FAA instituted a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) for drone flights around downtown from 9:00 AM to 4:00 AM, so only authorized flights by public safety or professional pilots associated with the event were allowed.
“STRATUS provides awareness of what is happening in the low altitude airspace over events,” says Bill Inman, Director of Business Development for WhiteFox. “During an event like SXSW, the system notifies public safety the instant a drone is powered up within the TFR, allowing them to ensure it does not interfere with their operations, whether that is a helicopter airlifting a patient to the hospital, or a drone providing overwatch of the event.”
During SXSW, many TFR violations were observed. Most are just clueless or careless pilots excited to get some cool footage of the event, not knowing they are violating federal law. Knowing where those drones and pilots are, allows public safety agencies to have a friendly conversation to educate the operator. However, sometimes the flights pose real danger to the public.
“After midnight on Saturday night [March 19], we were alerted to an unauthorized drone flight over the festivities on 6th Street,” says Jason Burnside, Program Manager for Austin Fire Department’s Robotics Emergency Deployment (RED) Team. “Multiple agencies were flying drones in the area, so the risk of collision above the crowd would have been very high. But with the situational awareness, we were able to avoid an incident and had the opportunity to educate the pilot about the danger his flight posed.”
About WhiteFox Defense Technologies, Inc.: Headquartered in California, WhiteFox’s mission is to keep the sky open for responsible pilots by creating solutions that advance drone technology for a better world. As the global leader in pioneering the safe integration of drones into society and offering worldwide drone airspace security solutions.