Airdata has been around since 2015 providing customers around the world with a drone management platform which offers invaluable reporting on the health of their drones. Recently, they announced the introduction of their live streaming app, which enables video to be streamed in near real time over the internet into command centers and units in the field. Airdata enables users to tap into a bird’s eye view in real time, with very low latency and a secure connection, giving officers on the ground reliable and vital situational awareness.
“I am the executive officer of our county’s response team,” explained Sergeant Rick Smith of the Antioch Police Department, UAS Program Supervisor, and Instructor with the LACRTC (Los Angeles County Regional Training Center) when outlining a recent incident in which they utilized Airdata’s live streaming app. “The intelligence you can get from live streaming is by far more than you can imagine. For example, we were at a controlled protest and we were able to capture subjects hiding weapons at various locations over the Airdata live streaming. We were able to send out officers to recover those weapons and locate those agitators to keep that protest peaceful. These were agitators that had no part of the peaceful group. They were just looking to agitate them, and they had their weapons laid out ready to go. That live intel collected by those officers and streamed to our command center enabled us to take appropriate action without disturbing the protest and causing further disturbance. It allowed us to resolve that incident very calmly and peacefully.”
In these challenging times, this peaceful conclusion could have ended very differently for the protestors and the officers on duty had they not had the situational awareness enabled by Airdata’s live streaming application.
During the testing phase of their product, Airdata worked with local law enforcement agencies to get their candid take on their product and to test it real life scenarios, and this made all the difference in the final product.
“We’ve been extremely appreciative to Airdata for tailoring a product that has worked well for us,” stated Lieutenant Dan Donelli who’s in command of the Sacramento Special Operations Bureau (which oversees Sacramento’s SWAT team, Air Operations Division, bomb squad, crisis negotiators, and unmanned aerial team). “We were demoing it for a while, and we gave our opinions of what we would like and Airdata has been extremely accommodating to that. We’ve tried other companies, but none of them have been as user friendly and as all-encompassing as Airdata for what we need. It’s been extremely beneficial for me as a tactical commander to be able to see in real time as my officers are flying their UAS to see what they see and to be able to make tactical decisions based on that. I’ve expanded it even further and I’ve been sending the data forward with my operators and team leaders on the SWAT team so that they can get an aerial perspective as they are coming onto a scene, a perspective they couldn’t have before. Even with our fixed wing and rotary aircraft, the ability to downstream the information that they are seeing is very difficult and that made it that much easier to get that information in real-time.”
“We are able to make life-saving decisions, not just for our people but also the public,” explained Donelli. “For example, if we’re approaching a structure and someone jumps out the back window and starts running and starts throwing evidence, we need that information immediately in order to make real-time decisions. And if they happen to throw something like a gun into a neighbor’s yard who has kids, we are able to notify that person to stay inside and until we can retrieve the weapon. In the past, we would not have been able to respond to situations such as that. All of this has translated to a better product for our stakeholders and the citizens of Sacramento County and we use it for keeping people safe.”
Both Smith and Donelli emphasized that time is of the essence for law enforcement, where every second counts and situations change in an instant. Having that level of low latency and trustworthy connectivity does save lives, which is why Airdata has been a game changer for these agencies.
“Initially, we thought we were going to reinvent the wheel,” explained Smith. “We brought in a very good IT guy; we designed our own secure website that was in the dark. And then we went to a streaming service. We had to use j-tech encoders in order to access the feed, and we plugged in through our Wi-Fi hotspot. But no matter how fast our network got, the best latency we were able to achieve was 10 seconds. Now we are turned on to Airdata, and it is practically near live with about a 0 to 1 second latency. That’s absolutely amazing when it comes to making command decisions at a critical incident. So that in itself is a force multiplier, and officer safety wise, you can’t enhance it anymore. This app, in combination with UAVs, is going to save lives.”
To have clear situational awareness of what is happening in real time can mean the difference between a peaceful de-escalation and tragedy, and Airdata is able to consistently provide this for law enforcement and emergency responders. Technology like this helps protect everyone, from the officers on the scene to the public, and even the suspect, but only if it works well and is reliable. This was something Eran Steiner, Founder and CEO of Airdata, took very seriously when developing the live streaming product.
“When we decided to launch our live streaming service, we had three big requirements,” explained Steiner. “The first one was the ability to maintain a connection over cellular hotspots. This is something that is absolutely critical for drone deployments. You aren’t deploying drones in an office building where you have fast broadband, you are typically deploying in areas where you have poor connectivity. We wanted to offer a solution that is rock solid in these cases. The second priority was to maintain low latency. We believe that the value of drone footage is in its ability to be as real-time as possible, especially for law enforcement where this can make a big difference. The third objective was to keep it as simple as possible by allowing customers to continue with how they operate their drones today and not require them to use a new proprietary flight app to enable live streaming. We wanted to facilitate live streaming without making drone operators change anything within their organization and workflow to do it. So, we developed a live streaming app that works in the background with any flight app, any drone. And during this process, we worked closely with law enforcement departments here in the Sacramento area, and they were very helpful in getting us to the end result that we have today, where we are aggressively keeping the connection and maintaining low latency.”
By collaborating directly with law enforcement, Airdata has been able to identify their requirements for live streaming and provide a solution that is making a real difference, defining what it means to deploy drones for good.
Recognizing that this tool in particular has the ability to save lives and help in these uncertain times, Airdata is offering law enforcement agencies a free trial of their service.
“We want to be in a position that we can help enable peaceful demonstrations and remove unnecessary friction all over the world,” concluded Steiner. “Drones can be used for good, and we believe we can help with that. The free trial is intended to provide law enforcement with the tools they need to respond efficiently to their calls and their needs. We are launching this program with those goals in mind.”