February 13, 2024

First of Its Kind: OKCPD's Groundbreaking Dock-Based Drone as First Responder Program Revolutionizes Policing at the Oklahoma State Fair

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OKCPD's Dock-Based Drone as First Responder Program: Revolutionizing Policing at Oklahoma State Fair

The Challenge of Managing a Large Open-Air Event

The Oklahoma State Fair, an event of entertainment and culture that attracts more than 900,000 attendees each year, presents a unique challenge for the Oklahoma City Police Department (OKCPD). Tasked with maintaining order and safety across the vast 435-acre grounds - roughly the size of 30 Walmart Supercenters and their parking lots - the department faces the dual responsibility of providing security for the fair while continuing effective policing operations in the rest of the city. The introduction of Drone as First Responder (DFR) technology is not just an upgrade in their operations but a revolution in public safety management.

Captain Bussert of OKCPD has long recognized the potential of drone technology in improving law enforcement capabilities, and has already integrated Skydio drones into daily patrol operations. This year, he wanted to add drones to his plan for policing at the fair, but he knew it would require a thoughtful approach to ensure that deploying OKCPD’s finite drone resources at the fairgrounds didn’t compromise the department's city-wide responsibilities.

Dock-Based Drone as First Responder

To address this challenge, Captain Bussert and Sergeant Laporte, the UAV program coordinator, collaborated with Skydio to expand their drone fleet. They strategically placed two Skydio X2s and accompanying drone docking stations around the fairgrounds to deploy a Dock-Based Drone as First Responder (DFR) program. This move, from drones in patrol vehicles to drones in docks, coupled with the activation of Skydio Remote Ops software, marked a significant shift in their operational strategy. Docked drones, used to quickly respond to calls for service and provide additional overwatch for the safety of the attendees, marks the first use of this technology for a multi-day, large-scale security event. Indeed, this deployment moved OKCPD’s drone operation into an advanced stage of their city-wide dock-based Drone as First Responder strategy.

Oklahoma City Drones

Remote pilots, stationed away from the bustling fairgrounds, could swiftly deploy and control the pre-positioned docked drones from a web browser. This capability ensured that officers on-site in the fairgrounds and command centers, as well as appropriate stakeholders in other locations, had immediate aerial overwatch for better decision-making and rapid response capabilities at their fingertips. Pre-positioned drones, ready to deploy at a moment’s notice, allow for faster response times, better situational awareness, and an increased ability to de-escalate situations. The drones, after each incident, conveniently returned to their Docks to recharge, standing ready for the next deployment.

Outstanding Results and Improved Public Safety with Dock-Based DFR

The DFR deployment was a resounding success, with 341 flights and nearly 60 hours of flight time logged during the 11-day event. The drones played a pivotal role in resolving 84 incidents, including the de-escalation of a shooting incident, locating missing individuals, apprehending suspects, and more. This effective use of technology significantly elevated community safety, minimized risks for officers, and expedited incident response and resolution.

What's more remarkable is that Cpt. Bussert and Sgt. Laporte were able to remotely view and manage these operations afar, demonstrating the power and flexibility of remote drone operation.

Oklahoma City Police Drones

Looking Ahead: Scaling the DFR Program

Encouraged by this success, Captain Bussert is now focusing on scaling the Drone as First Responder (DFR) program throughout Oklahoma City. Plans are underway to re-deploy the Docks to strategic locations within the city and incorporate new Skydio X10 drones into their fleet. These drones, equipped with advanced autonomy features that enable remote operations through built-in 5G connectivity, offer even greater efficiency and flexibility in policing operations. Officers will be able to focus on doing their jobs on the ground while a remote pilot focuses on flight and communication.

By incorporating patrol-activated and dock-based drones into call response, OKCPD aims to advance its DFR program's maturity, ensuring comprehensive coverage, heightened public safety, and better outcomes.

Pioneering a Safer Future

OKCPD's success in using drone technology, both at the Oklahoma State Fair and in daily call response throughout the jurisdiction, is a testament to the potential of innovative policing methods by way of Drone as First Responder. OKCPD leads the way in policing with drones as the Oklahoma State Fair marks the nation’s first dock-based DFR program used for daily call response and overwatch. As they continue to expand and refine their drone program, the department sets a benchmark for others to follow, leading the way in advanced technology for the greater good of the community and the safety of first responders.

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