The state of Georgia, by happenstance, was the epicenter of dealing with drones—one very successful protection of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium during Super Bowl LIII at Atlanta and the prosecution of a drone pilot for attempting to deliver marijuana at a state prison. To add to the importance of this confluence is that UASs were instrumental in protecting the Atlanta site.
The NFL’s premier event is a target for a variety of malevolent forces, but the Georgia World Congress Center Authority and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, long with the FBI and DHS, hired the Skyfire Team to develop a plan to protect the Stadium. They deployed two tethered drones in the skies to surveil the crowd events, identify threats and respond in case of an emergency. The Skyfire UASystem included the DJI Matrice 210 aircraft, a Zenmuse Z30 zoom camera, as well as the DJI/FLIR Zenmuse XT2 thermal imaging camera. Each drone was flown to a maximum altitude of 200 feet above ground and was secured and powered by Drone Aviation Corp’s FUSE tethering system
“It was interesting to coordinate and fly drones just a few hundred feet below Black Hawk helicopters,” said Skyfire. CBP flew a fleet of 6 Blackhawks and three smaller A-Stars were available for close support.
This aerial task force was there, among other things, to enforce the FAA’s No Fly Zone as defined in a TFR of about a 30-mile diameter around the stadium and goes from the surface up to 18,000 feet. F-16 fighter jets will also patrol the sky as part of the security operation.
The FBI confiscated six drones for violating the TFR to Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta ahead of Super Bowl LIII.
GOOD JOB DRONES
A man has been charged with trying to smuggle marijuana into a Georgia state prison using a large drone that was not legally registered with the FAA under 14 CFR Part 107.
Eric Brown, 34, was caught near the prison, which wasn’t identified, on March 29 with a drone that he allegedly intended to use to deliver the drug and other contraband, according to court documents and the Department of Transportation’s Inspector General, which assisted in the investigation.
The charges were filed Jan. 9 in federal court and announced Tuesday.
The OIG’s participation may signal that the DOT is more aggressively enforcing UAS violation. The need for more rigorous action was highlighted by drones interfering with flights at Gatwick and Newark.
Most prisons are included in a TFR. However, wardens complain that the drones are frequently used to drop drugs, cellphones and other contraband. Prison officials are spending millions of dollars to try to stop the flow of contraband to convicts, installing infra-red cameras and even netting along fence lines.
This photo shows a Yuneec Typhoon drone and controller in Jessup, Md. Maryland State Police and prison officials say two men planned to use the drone to smuggle drugs, tobacco and pornography videos into the maximum-security Western Correctional Institution near Cumberland, Md. (AP Photo/David Dishneau, File)
Technology is working on solutions. For example, AeroDefense AirWarden system is an advanced drone and pilot detection system. Another UAS designed to interdict bad drones is the ShockWave Tactical UAS, which includes the following defensive/offensive elements:
- Full manual or autonomous modes;
- Incapacitating Light Emitting Diode Device, a new tech developed by the company, that “emits different colored light, flashes and patterns, which act on the target’s brain, inducing disorientation, confusion, nausea and, in some extreme cases, vomiting;”
- Custom Digital Taser Module available with cartridges capable of accurately striking a target 20 feet away;
- IR targeting laser, visible on its camera system;
- NLLS System – a 12GA launcher module designed to fire “12-gauge non-lethal ammunition, such as flash-bang grenades, as well as pepper or rubber rounds;”
- 1080p HD camera system that can transmit video or save to DVR – a fixed front camera provides a pilot’s eye view, with a superimposed HUD system;
- FLIR Duo Pro R, HD dual-sensor thermal camera available;
- Compact design and footprint.
If the ShockWave delivers what it promises, the balance of power may have moved back to the prison.
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