Electric aviation can help protect mass gatherings from terrorism

I know mass shootings are a controversial topic, but it’s something we need to talk about, even if it sucks. Although the political aspect of this situation generates strong feelings and heated debate, it is also important to “think outside the box”. The normal range of “solutions” we see trotting out after a shoot is almost always the same. We always see things like “ban all guns”, “common sense [insert latest marketing term for gun laws here]“, “kids need more Jesus” and “more good guys with guns”.

The debate will rage on, laws will be passed in some places, courts will strike down some (or most), and it will happen pretty much the same way no matter what I think or say about it. We all have things we’d love to see happen, but while we’re waiting for it to happen (no matter what, and maybe forever), we should at least think of things that CAN be done today. hui instead of running on it as a political hamster wheel.

With that in mind, I want to offer a practical solution that law enforcement, event planners, and drone-licensed volunteers can use to prevent an attack like the one we recently saw in Highland Park, in Illinois.

Complex environments are difficult to monitor

To explain how electric aviation can help us protect people during mass gatherings in urban and suburban areas, I want to quickly review what I gathered about the shooting.

The shooter (who we won’t name here because these people thrive on fame) climbed an unsecured ladder, climbed to the top of a commercial building along the route of an Independence Day parade. From this vantage point on the second floor, he fired about 70 rounds from a rifle, killing at least seven people (at the time of this writing) and injuring dozens.

He (assuming those are the right pronouns, given how he blended into the crowd to escape) was able to accomplish this because urban and suburban environments can be very complex. There are alleyways, little nooks and crannies between buildings, unsecured ladders embedded in the walls, and multiple entrances and exits from most places. It is practically impossible to put eyeballs everywhere in this kind of environment.

If you look at an entire parade route (it can be miles long), there are hundreds or even thousands of places where a terrorist could hide and get a view of a crowd. There are also many places to drop improvised explosive devices or do other evil things that will hurt a group of people.

Allocation of resources to high-risk, low-frequency events

While we see a lot of mass shootings in the news, we have to keep in mind that we are talking about a country of 330 million people in thousands of cities and towns. On a holiday like Independence Day, most places hold a parade or other celebration where people gather in large numbers. Even though each of these places had all the police they had to monitor the event, there was no way they could see everything from the ground.

Could you bring in police from neighboring jurisdictions? Normally you could. But, when everyone is having their own event, there would be none available to give every small town more than three times the normal police presence. Also, no jurisdiction has this kind of reserve police force, so volunteers are generally not an option that could do that either.

In other words, you couldn’t get enough good guys with guns to cover every event every time.

Even if you could, the miniscule chance of this happening at any given gathering is just not enough for most places to want to spend the time and money to put armed and trained eyeballs on every aisle, roof, hole, storm drain, tree, and window along an entire parade route. It’s just not realistic.

But that doesn’t mean high-risk, low-frequency events like this aren’t real. Public safety and emergency management personnel need to be prepared for this kind of event, even though they are unlikely to see one in their entire career.

Clean technology can allow two people to do the work of hundreds

Fortunately, there is a low-cost, zero-emission way to make it very difficult for someone to pull off such an attack in your community: a small, lightweight drone.

According to FAA rules, you can now legally fly a small drone over a crowded area if you have the right equipment. To keep costs down, what you’ll want is a Category 1 drone, which means it should weigh less than 250 grams (0.55 pounds) and have no moving surfaces that could lacerate a person. case of accident. For “outdoor assemblies” you will need to comply with the remote identification requirement if you wish to proceed directly.

Image by Kelly Shores, DJI.

I don’t know the other brands, but I do know that a DJI Mavic Mini (and its newer variants) meets the weight requirement, and it’s been tested for its ability to lacerate human skin (it can’t, and from my own experience the propeller guards make it more dangerous while making it exceed the weight limit). A firmware update is due out soon for the Mavic Mini drones that give it remote ID capability, so until then you won’t need to hover above the crowds at parades, but you can be nearby.

If you get the Litchi app and place your phone in compatible Google Cardboard VR glasses, you can get a first-person view of what the drone sees while seeing things clearly enough to make out details on rooftops, in alleys, etc. either need a second person other than the pilot to wear the goggles, or you will need the second person to act as a visual observer so the pilot can wear the goggles. You’ll also want anyone not wearing the glasses, or a third party, to act as security and prevent the team from being an attacker’s first target.

It is also important that the team is in contact with law enforcement, so that anything suspicious can be investigated immediately. A person on a rooftop, a strange figure in an alley, or anything else seen from above can be responded to immediately instead of remaining hidden until it’s too late. Monitoring the area for a while before the event starts is also a good idea. You will need to practice periodically and find ways to radio the location of suspicious people or objects.

Perhaps more importantly, the deterrent effect of a drone flying around an event can prevent an attacker or terrorist from trying it. You’ll never know if you’ve scared off an attacker, but that’s a good thing.

The best of all? The whole setup could be put together for less than $500 if you shop around. It’s not only much cheaper than a manned helicopter (and more environmentally friendly), but cheaper than a decent new gun, so it’s good in what even public safety officials in the smaller town can afford. The work can be done by volunteers, who don’t need to be sworn law enforcement (but that wouldn’t hurt).

This puts much better security at your fingertips almost anywhere.

Featured image: The complex environment where the filming of Highland Park took place. Screenshot of Google Maps.


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Sara H. Byrd