The police department in Arlington can now use new tools in support of public safety over the Texas urban community – two small helicopter Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has granted permission for the Arlington police to fly these unmanned aircraft under certain circumstances: they must fly under 400 feet, only in the daytime, be in sight of the operator and a safety observer, and be in contact with the control tower at the nearby Dallas-Fort Worth airport – one of the busiest in the country.
Arlington is situated midway between Dallas and Fort Worth in Texas, and is already famous as the home of the Dallas Cowboys football and the Texas Rangers baseball teams, who have their stadiums side-by-side near the Six Flags over Texas theme park. Two years ago this complex played host to the Superbowl, when over 103,000 fans attended this single event. With scenarios like this, you can understand this police department wanting to be prepared for any contingency and two years ago Arlington was one of the first police departments to begin training with small helicopter UAVs.
The UAV in question is the Leptron Avenger, made in Utah by Leptron Industrial Helicopters. They are about 5 feet long and can stay aloft on battery power for about an hour. The Arlington Police originally acquired its first UAV with a grant from the Department of Homeland Security to support security for the Superbowl.
Sgt. Christopher Cook, representative of the Arlington Police department, stated that the small helos will only be used in situations that a manned helicopter would be used, and will not be used for police pursuits or for traffic enforcement. Typical uses might be to take crime scene photos from above, or to look for a missing person.
“We basically have permission to operate our small helicopter program in certain areas of the City, generally south of Interstate Highway 30, once a clearly defined incident perimeter has been established," says Sgt. Cook. "We are working with our local airports which have airspace within the confines of the City of Arlington to create letters of agreement so there will be a seamless transition once a decision is made to deploy the equipment.”
Arlington Police Department is one of more than 80 entities that have so far applied to the FAA for permission to fly drones in U.S. airspace. The Arlington UAV deployment is significant because Arlington is a major urban area with a large population, and it contains one of the nation’s busiest airports – Dallas Fort Worth International. Arlington is also home to two other small airports, and the main Bell Helicopter factory.