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ULM professor, student train law enforcement on drone technology

Published: Jan. 17, 2020 at 7:24 PM CST
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A ULM professor and student are training north Louisiana law enforcement on drone technology. Associate professor of aviation Dr. Paul Karlowitz says drone technology is a new, emerging field and a great tool for officers.

"Very exciting. I've always been interested in police, especially state police,” Stephanie Robinson says. “I told one of my teachers when I was in the fourth grade, I wanted to be a state trooper when I grow up."

The Unmanned Aircraft System Center manager and senior aviation major is now helping them by teaching everything they need to know about drones. "Technology is constantly advancing. You can buy a drone one day, and literally six months, that may not be the drone that's in use."

Over several weeks, Robinson and Karlowitz teach first responders and officers all drone procedures and information and even guide them through test flights throughout the program. That's something Karlowitz says can be helpful tools for them like investigating, documenting and reconstructing accidents.

"If they have an accident on I-20, for them to reconstruct what happened, they may have to close I-20 when they get all their equipment out there and reconstruct. With the drones, it's a matter of minutes,” Karlowitz says. “They can video everything, and open it up again. It used to take a couple hours otherwise.”

He says this technology will help them in other ways too. “They can do overhead observation. Nobody's at risk. Nobody's hurt. They can do night observations, just a multitude of things."

They can also use drones in other ways, like using heat signatures to find missing people. "I heard something in South Carolina. They were looking for a missing person and actually found them with the thermal camera they had put on a drone,” Robinson says. “He had been missing for like two or three days, something like that, and they found him just out in the middle of nowhere."

These are just a few examples of what officers will soon be able to do throughout the state, thanks to Robinson and Karlowitz. "Technology is changing so quickly, it's hard to keep up. There's so many drones with different capabilities, you get lost,” Karlowitz says. “You just have to stay immersed in it and keep up with the changes, and the sky's the limit."

The 26 first responders and officers will complete the program next month. Then, they will be able to take their tests to receive their licenses to fly drones commercially.

The duo traveled to the LSP Joint Emergency Training Services Center in Zachary to train 30 other officers in September and November.