It’s a hot August day at the Maryland State Police Training Academy. The sun is shining bright and there’s a constant buzzing in the air. It’s not insects – though those are certainly out and about as well – it’s small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS), also known as drones.
Dozens of officials from across the country, spanning a variety of different federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, have gathered together for intensive training. The “Advanced Open/Obstructed Test Proctor Course for Evaluating Drone Capabilities and Remote Pilot Proficiency” was developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in conjunction with the Science and Technology Directorate (S&T). The goal is right there in the title: evaluating capabilities and proficiency. Competent drone piloting is critical when lives are on the line; these devices are used in numerous law enforcement operations including search and rescue and counter IED (improvised explosive device) efforts.
“We first developed these test methods with the idea of helping the government to identify and test ground robots to make sure we have a standardized method and we’re buying the best,” explained S&T Standards Manager Kai-Dee Chu, PhD. “We have been using them to test drones for procurement purposes, and the first responders found out for themselves that these standardized test methods are even better than their training courses. So, they adopted these test methods and it’s just caught on like wildfire – not just in the United States, but now in Canada, in Korea, in Japan…these test methods are used by all these first responders.”
Drone in flight during the “Advanced Open/Obstructed Test Proctor Course for Evaluating Drone Capabilities and Remote Pilot Proficiency.” Photo credit: S&T.