In law enforcement, seconds can make the difference between life and death. Equipment that cannot be deployed at a moment’s notice can make or break an operation. This was the case on February 16, 2023, when the new Teledyne FLIR SIRAS was pressed into service for a felony search in Texas. A police SWAT team leveraged the power of the SIRAS drone. For the sake of the anonymity of officers involved as well as the privacy of the suspect in question, names and exact locations are removed.
During a domestic abuse call, a convicted felon in Texas escaped into a residential neighborhood. Members of the local SWAT team were called out to assist with the search. Due to the broad area that needed to be searched and being at night, it was determined that using aerial thermal imaging would be the best course of action.
Initially, it was decided that the department would be using the department’s existing drone asset. However, the department was also testing a Teledyne FLIR SIRAS, which was brought to assist in the search thanks to the capability of the 640x SIRAS payload VUE TV128, featuring a 640×512 sensor coupled with a 16MP RGB camera.
Arriving on the scene at 9:31pm, the existing drone was already set up with the operator who was attempting to get authorization for flight. Taking less than a minute to set up, the SIRAS was in the air before the other drone platform had received authorization to fly. This was noted by the officers to be a big advantage to the SIRAS. Operating in an official capacity, law enforcement does not normally have the luxury of time to secure flight authorization. Not having GEO fencing, the SIRAS will never experience this problem.
Once airborne, the officers immediately commented on the clarity of the thermal sensor on the SIRAS. Even with the same thermal resolution as the existing drone asset, the clarity of the SIRAS payload was noticeable. Further commenting on the flight characteristics of the SIRAS, the officers praised the smooth and steady flight character of the drone. They were impressed with the power of the drone as well. During the operation, both drones were pushed to the very edge of line of sight. The SIRAS had no issues being so far out and experienced no loss in transmission strength.
Because the mission was meant to cover the entire neighborhood, the distance from the pilot that the SIRAS flew was about 2,100 ft at the furthest point. The weather was clear with relatively little wind and a temperature around 40°F.
After 22 minutes, the incumbent asset had reached the end of its battery capacity. Meanwhile, the SIRAS was still flying at the 35-minute mark. It wasn’t until the remote warned its operator that it had reached 25% charge, that the drone was brought back. Through the hot swap capability, the SIRAS was back up in the air within 15 seconds. Very impressed, the operators commented that they loved not having to wait to power it down and then back up again. Being that a power down can cause the existing drone authorization to reset and thus costing more time, the hot-swappable battery capability was very much appreciated.
After another 30 minutes, the mission was concluded and the SIRAS was safely back on the ground with 35% battery left. It left the officers very impressed.
During the post-mission discussion, the officers on scene were impressed to find out that the Teledyne FLIR SIRAS is weatherproofed. Among the other accolades the drone received were the extended battery life, ease of control, bright and clear screen, and the clarity of the thermal image. Even with the mission taking place at night, an astonishing amount of detail could be seen through the RGB camera.
Law Enforcement is not offered the luxury of time; missions will hinge on minutes and seconds. With the lack of GEO fencing, hot-swappable batteries, and a manufacturer-reported, one-minute “up time,” the SIRAS is a perfect UAS platform for the law enforcement community. With a rugged design, weather-sealed IP-rated airframe, and incredible optics, the SIRAS will easily meet any department’s needs. All this with the added advantage of being from an American company whose priority on data security is paramount.