A couple of days in the office dealing with an idiot. Maybe more about him in the future.

When i arrived at the office this morning i thought i was going to deal with another body but was quite happy when a call came in from SWAT asking for help.

During the night a lone gunman, who is believed to be the husband, killed a lady and two children. It appears that a gun was used to kill all three. The family car was not at the house, hence the theory of the husband being involved. After a night of searching for the vehicle and suspect it was found down a farm track. I was curious what they wanted from me but was happy to go on a magical mystery trip. The only thing they said was to bing everything, ground based and aerial based. Yeah maybe the drone is coming out.

At bit of a slow start out of the city and a phone call by SWAT abled me to switch on the lights and sirens. I’m one of few allowed to use them but need authorisation from a certain rank. Seen as there maybe a life at risk authorisation was granted. I used to love using them but after a while the novelty wears off, its amazing how the public reacts to seeing light and sirens coming approaching in their rear view mirror. I was taught by a very good driver who explained a slower pace by the emergency vehicle allowed for the public to find space to get out of your way, which resulted in a smoother and faster progress through the traffic. He was absolutely right. Next time you see a police car barrelling through traffic just imagine if he went slightly slower and gave more time for the traffic to move how much quicker he’d be. There’s nothing more embarrassing than sitting in static traffic with your lights on and people panicking to get out of your way. You can feel the eyes looking at you. My passenger was certainly excited with the journey.

As soon as i had passed the traffic i turned of the waning equipment.

Not long until i reached the outer cordon and was chatting to the officer in charge as well as SWAT. It appeared that the car from the murder scene was at the end of a farm track and the team didn’t want to approach just yet as they didn’t know if the occupant was alive or dead. They had no indication either way even after attempting to make contact. If he was alive sending officers towards him could be putting their lives in danger. One option was to call me and see if i could fly in and give them a better idea of what was happening in the vehicle.

It was a simple solution to a problem and not really difficult to do but one i’m not asked to do everyday so was happy to help.

Google maps certainly helps in these situations. On my chosen drones controller i bring up a map of the area. As you now the maps aren’t up to date and certainly don’t have the concerned vehicle in it. What i can do is fly above the required area and take an image, this image can then laid over the google map to give a bang up to date view. The benefits of this is allowing GPS to link in with a live map as well as allowing me to see any overhanging wires or branches if the craft goes slightly out of sight. Flying out of line of sight is certainly not recommended but i’m allowed to in certain circumstances. This is one of them and if all goes right the flight will be autonimous.

I take of after conducting all pre flight checks and rise to 200 feet well away from the vehicle. I don’t want to make the passenger aware of the craft, who knows what state of mind he is in. I’m not keen on making him panic just yet. At that height he isn’t likely to hear the drone so all should be cool.

After obtaining the image required i bring the drone back and complete the overlay. Now i can start making a flight path.

With a clear view of any overhanging dangers i start plotting waypoints for an autonomous flight. Some crafts need the flight to actually be conducted and waypoints added along the route, this one doesn’t. It can be done on a computer and the flightpath added to the craft, all clever stuff.

After adding the waypoints which dictate the route i have to work out safe heights. I keep the craft at a safe height until it nears the cars location and then set it to lower to 6 feet. When it is at that height it will conduct a slow flight around the vehicle. I will be operating the camera so that it is pointed in the exact direction. It is a lot to trust in but in the flight does go slightly wrong i can take control of the drone and return it to a safe location asap.

The drone powers up and takes of automatically. The route is flown at the predetermined heights but at a speed decided by me. It’s a slow methodical flight with all personal on edge. This could unhinge the suspect if indeed he is still alive.

As the drone approached the vehicle i was keeping my fingers crossed that it stopped defending at 6 feet. Thankfully it did and then paused for a couple of second. I then set it of at a slow pace and kept the camera focused on the front drivers seat. A lot of reflection on the windows made the view difficult. I switched the camera over to the FLIR camera (thermal). This concurred that there certainly was a suspect in the seat and he seemed to be slumped sideways. With the assumption of him being dead i took control of the craft and slowly moved to towards the drivers window. A clear break from reflections clearly indicates that they person in the vehicle has more than likely taken their life with a gun. The officer in charge sees the image and straight away sends in a small SWAT team in support of a medical team.

I manoeuvre the the drone away from the vehicle and fly it straight up away from the approaching officers and then switch it to auto return home mode.

The craft landed fine and all was good. My rear end stopped clenching and relief was evident on my face. It was a bit nerve racking not being able to have constant view of the craft even though you knew there was no one in harms way.

Another good day completed.


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