Memorial Villages Police Department OCase Study

The following is an overview of the set up and operations of the OPD and OFD Drone as a First Responder (DFR) program

Why DFR?

Memorial Villages Police Department’s Drone as a First Responder program has been active for almost 2 years (as of 07/18/2022). Their motivation for being one of the first DFR programs in the country came from Chief Ray Schultz and his innovative spirit in public safety. Chief Shultz has years of experience in implementing new technology in public safety so he understands first hand how new technology can make a difference in the way departments and their officers operate. Chief Schultz’s passion for pushing the envelope combined with internal efforts from Commander Eric Jones and UAS Lead Officer Larry Boggus is what made MVPD the perfect spot for Paladin to beta test and continually improve on its technology over the last few years. Let us start off by saying that MVPD has seen the worst of it … from drones not launching to software glitches and everything in between, their persistence and patience with a young startup is what has allowed Paladin to be deploying to hundreds of 911 calls a week all over the USA. Before we get into the case study, we’d like to give a special thank you to Memorial Villages Police Department.

“It arms us with information. Information is power … We have an authorized strength of 182 [officers] and right now we are 35 down … [DFR] is a force multiplier for us and allows us to do things we wouldn’t normally be allowed to do. It allows us to respond to calls quicker than we would be able to otherwise.”
Chief Ray Schultz
Memorial Villages Police Department

The FAA Process

Memorial Villages Police Department got their BVLOS waiver almost two years ago. What is unique is that they are getting ready to renew it. A lot has changed in two years. The FAA is more clearly defining how departments can and cannot operate. For example, radio-based UAS were about all that were viable a few years back. MVPD used (and still uses for manual missions) DJI drones. Onboard detect and avoid solutions were not and are still not where the FAA wants them to be in order to maintain safe operations. See and avoid (SAA) utilizing visual observers was the model that MVPD was going to go with, however, the advent and adoption of LTE based UAS has now allowed for a more efficient type of SAA. MVPD pushed the envelope by using a network of visual observers instead of one dedicated VO positioned on a rooftop. As we near reapplying, Paladin and MVPD have begun looking into solutions that will eliminate the VO entirely. With almost two years of safe missions, we have a strong data set for class G airspace that will make a compelling case as to why MVPD should not be required to have a VO on every flight. As far as technology, Paladin has interacted with and continues to look for cost effective DAA solutions and there are some very promising ones on the horizon. For now, the most cost effective and logistically pragmatic solution is to use an LTE-based drone and a network of visual observers. 

Operation Overview

Memorial Villages runs a hybrid model. This means that when Officer Larry Boggus is not on shift and available to fly missions (as the DFR program is a collateral duty), a dispatcher is able to launch the Knighthawk when needed. Memorial Villages does not have a large call volume so this model allows for the UAS to be there when needed but does not require pulling an officer off of duty. It should be noted that the PD has an internal dispatch. 

The Knighthawk MVPD is equipped with a 10x optical zoom and 640 x 512p thermal in one payload. With this payload, the Knighthawk has a 55 minute battery life and has ample time to get 3 miles across town, provide a live video feed for the duration of the call, and return to home