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Miami MDPD Drones still grounded - getting rusty

Odds are you’ve seen the first two in Miami airspace. But so far, the only people to have spied the third in action are the folks in Miami-Dade Police Department training sessions.

A year and a half ago, MDPD received two T-Hawk drones — cousins of the ones patrolling the skies over Afghanistan — as part of a Department of Justice grant. It was the first large metro force in the nation to get these metallic eyes in the sky, and hoped to use them as support during hostage situations and police standoffs.

So far, at least, the department has yet to use one in action. It doesn’t help that, per the Federal Aviation Administration, MDPD is allowed to fly the drones only below 300 feet, outside city limits, within visual sight of the operator, and during the day. (The devices can fly up to 9,000 feet and hover in midair.)

But MDPD isn’t going to throw in the towel on its robot helpers. Last month, through the county commission, the department put in for a renewal of its FAA license to fly the drones. That measure, sponsored by Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz, is expected to pass a vote this week.

So why keep the program going despite the heavy restrictions and lack of use (especially when privacy advocates cringe at the words drone and police in the same sentence)? Major Thomas Hanlon of MDPD’s Special Patrol Bureau says practice will hopefully make perfect.

“Our ultimate goal is obviously to expand the realm with the FAA, building up the credibility of how we use [the drones],” Hanlon tells Riptide. “We’re showing them that we operate this responsibly.”

Does expanding that realm include using the drones for surveillance? Hanlon says MDPD has no plans to spy on you from afar.

What’s best about the program for MDPD, though, is that it doesn’t cost the department much to have the drones. One of the $50,000 machines was paid with the DOJ grant, while the other is leased from its developer, Honeywell, for $1 a year.

So for at least one more year, Miami-Dade police will continue tinkering and testing until they finally get a chance to put their drones to work.

Source: Miami New TImes

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    March 13, 2013 8:10 pmPosted 11 years ago

    Hi. I would like to know if you can give me a little help or info.
    I want to buy the AR Drone, it’s with in my reach. but how can I boost the wifi signal for larger range or should I use a 6 channel controller with what light weight trans and receiver. I would appreciate any ideas.

    Bill Guy

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    March 13, 2013 11:10 pmPosted 11 years ago
    MiamiAerial (Author)

    Hi Bill,
    i never flew the ARDrone but i know several people using a range extender for range extension.
    Try something like this one Extender. Connect it to Your Laptop, turn on the Drone and find the drone’s WiFi signal and tell it to connect. Reboot the extender and lock onto the Drone’s ad-hoc network, then connect Your iPad and it happily should relay all traffic to the drone and back.
    THIS should give You a broader range around You.
    Let me know how it goes.

    Thanks Hagen

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