WANT TO PREVENT POLICE KILLINGS: Timothy Martin has created drills for sending in drones before and together with police who operate indoors.
Foto: Trygve Indrelid, UAS Norway

Bomb squads use robots while police are still kicking in doorsIndoor drones save lives, says police expert

Timothy Martin of the Los Angeles Police Department says indoor drones save lives in operations. - Always remember to use at least two, says the former hostage dealer, now the drone expert from the USA.
Ole Dag Kvamme

On Tuesday 14 June, two more American policemen were shot and killed when they entered an apartment.

– Bomb squads have used robots for 20 years, but police officers still risk their lives when they enter houses, says drone director Timothy Martin in the Los Angeles police regional training center.

It was in the afternoon when police officer Joseph Santana and his superior, police sergeant Michael Paredes, entered a motel room in El Monte, a town east of Los Angeles.

It was in the afternoon. It was around 4.30pm when they knocked. A woman had asked for help. Once inside, both were shot and killed by the man in the house, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Many police officers are killed

Annually, 2,700 police officers are shot at in the United States. From January to September 2021 alone, 57 were killed. Many of them were shot while entering houses and situations, says Timothy Martin. He is the director of UAS training at the Los Angeles Regional Training Center in Fountain Valley, California, USA.

While federal police units are far advanced, American police forces are state-organized, and many are funded and organized by the municipalities in which they reside.

Martin himself was a hostage negotiator with the Huntington Beach police, when in 2015 he realized how much help a drone could provide, if instead of storming places and risking many lives, they could take away the element of surprise by coming in with a drone first.

Today, he works part-time at the fitness center, but is still employed by the Huntington Police Department.

– There is no doubt that whoever is inside the building has the element of surprise on their side, said Martin, when he gave a lecture on various drones for indoor use at Interpol’s drone conference IDES 2022 in Oslo in June.

– We are still kicking in doors

When police officers Joseph Santana and Michael Paredes entered the hotel, the man in the house entrenched himself in the bathroom, from where he stormed out and shot and killed the two policemen.

– Bomb squads and federal police use robots and aerial vehicles to investigate houses. While we regular police officers still kick in doors, go into bedrooms with the suspect in them. Here police officers are shot and killed because they don’t know what awaits them. We want to take away the element of surprise, says Martin.

He’s tried “all kinds” of drones, and the short answer is that any drone is better than none, as long as you use more than two.

– One drone is no drone. Then you might as well leave it alone. Nine times out of ten, the suspect will move, flee or attack the drone. The last is my favorite: Because then you actually know that the suspect is in the house, and you know where he is, explained Martin.

Even inexpensive DJI drones can fly indoors now, but they are still inferior, as they are, for example, useless if they land on their backs. Other drones can turn around, scan the room and light it up before the cops follow.

Cheap is better than none

– I would recommend starting with a reasonable edition and getting started, because a whole mindset comes with the use of drones indoors. And you have to choose whether you send them in first, or go in together with them, says Martin.

The drone LEMUR from the American manufacturer Brinc kam is equipped so that it breaks window glass to get inside. PHOTO: BRINC

They have developed manuals for the use of many drone types, based on their advantages and disadvantages.

– We know all types, and their limitations, and have developed protocols for all kinds of flights.

The most exciting now is the military Nova 2 from Shield, which can fly autonomously, i.e. enter a building all by itself, fly around, scan the area, and find the way out again.

The police currently do not have access to such. But there are drones that have other, good features:

Martin showed off drones that can both push open doors and break glass.

Opens doors and scares

– If you bring in a drone, it often has an effect on suspected persons. They like to think they are going to be shot or attacked by the drone. Time and time again, we have seen the drone make suspects surrender.

When using emergency troops, Martin has developed a tactic of always having drones with them, which move in at the same time.

– If you send in SWAT teams, you know you’re left with chaos afterwards. If you get a drone in, you can get video footage of the area before anyone moves in, and that provides good evidence.

DJI drones can have trouble flying tactically, but also have trouble if the light goes out.

– DJI flies in, they fly fascinatingly well, are small and compact. But the moment they lose a certain amount of light, it behaves hysterically, says Martin.

If you lose the signal on a DJI, you lose control. Other analog systems flicker as the connection goes bad, and you know the vessel must return.

– Then you don’t lose the vessel, and can still control it, says Martin.

Sky Hero and Brinc

He mentions Sky-Hero’s Loki MK2 and Brinc’s Lemur drone as good drones the police use.

When sending drones into a building, Martin uses terms such as red and blue drones. The red comes in first, and covers corridors and open spaces at all times. Then another, the blue one, will fly in and clear room after room.

– The red always covers uncleared areas. There is never an area that is not covered by video as you search, and there must always be a drone covering the back door, says Martin.

He uses as an example that a drone can be flown in, set down, and then send sound and images much further than the flight batteries allow. This allows you to follow the inside of a building.

–  Loki MK2 can go in, turn around, put on a bright light, so the team can then come in afterwards.

Loki also has powerful sound signals that imitate gunshots.

– When you enter a building and send in a drone that sounds like an attack, while the team enters the other way, you take over the element of surprise, says Martin.