One of the areas that has seen more potential from the adoption of uncrewed aerial vehicles has been public safety. When we think about the implications of using remotely piloted vehicles in dangerous situations, the possibilities to take humans away from harm are enormous.
We have heard of great success stories of police departments adopting drones and using them to review and monitor active crime scenes, to follow criminals, or to survey border areas where drug smugglers abound. Unfortunately, most, if not all cases, are about affluent agencies that can allocate budgets for the acquisition of expensive equipment and afford costly training of officers.
Statistically, 72% of all fire departments in the USA are 100% volunteer. This is what drove a group of drone enthusiasts in Connecticut to create the National Public Safety Drone Donation Program to allow organizations to donate their old drones for a good cause and a second life.
During Commercial UAV News in Las Vegas, we connected with Mark Langley, CEO of Airborne Works and founder of the NPS-DDP, for a conversation about the genesis of the initiative and the future moving forward.“Our motto is ‘Eyes In The Sky For Every Department In Need™’ and our initial mission was to recruit others to help support our national public safety departments nationwide with UAV/UAS technology. We accomplish these objectives through voluntary donations, be it new or used hardware, software, and or financial and media support from the private, corporate and community sectors,” Mark said emphatically. “I firmly believe that together we can help support those who give so much to our communities.”
Most fire departments in Connecticut are voluntary and therefore their financial resources are limited to acquire, maintain, and train personnel of an uncrewed vehicle. This gave Mark an idea for the program through the creation of a charitable 501(c)3 foundation to receive, refurbish, and distribute the donations.
“Initially we thought it would be a great idea to collect all these old drones and put them back to work for a good cause,” said Mark. “As we began receiving the drones, we realized that many were unusable and would be a disservice to refurbish and give them to a public safety agency, so we created a couple of alternative initiatives. The first one for those drones not suitable for public safety are donated to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) programs thanks to our partnership with Women and Drones. The second initiative is to actively encourage departments that retire old drones into our foundation to ask drone manufacturers and corporations to help us obtain new drones.”
Mark and his team firmly believe that no department should be paying manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) for life-saving drone technology, especially those that are entirely volunteer forces. NPS-DDP encourages anyone with a budget to contact the organization for quotes on UAV technology to obtain the best possible pricing. In addition, 5% of the net proceeds of any sale will be donated back to the NPS-DDP foundation to help underfunded public safety agencies across the country.
“Most UAV manufacturers don’t like the idea of selling under MSRP, so we have to be creative and work with these vendors in order to create programs specific for public safety,” Mark said. “The issue of the Department of Defense (DoD) Blue List 2.0 further complicated things, especially in Florida, where strict laws have been passed prohibiting public agencies to use Chinese drones. We will always be respectful of the Blue List 2.0 no matter the state as we work to fulfill our mission.”
In any case, we applaud Mark and his team for the creativity and ingenuity in trying to help public safety agencies that otherwise will not have access to aerial uncrewed technology.
If you have a drone that is not in use or you are interested in donating to NPS-DDP, please visit their website: https://nps-ddp.org/