This Tech Speak mini episode brings you to the Maryland State Police Training Academy for a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the “Advanced Open/Obstructed Test Proctor Course for Evaluating Drone Capabilities and Remote Pilot Proficiency.” This training is based on standardized test methods developed by S&T and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The course consists of inexpensive materials, such as plastic buckets arranged in an easily replicable setup, enabling the consistent certification of drone pilots across various response agencies. Listen now to hear S&T Program Manager Kai-Dee Chu along with colleagues from NIST, U.S. Secret Service, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, and Maryland State Police discuss measurement science, testing best practices, and how ingenious courses like this one help make us all safer.
Guests: Kai-Dee Chu along with colleagues from NIST, U.S. Secret Service, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, and Maryland State Police.
[00:00:00] Dave: Welcome to Tech Speak a mini episode of the Technologically Speaking podcast. In mid-August, dozens of officials from across the country, gathered at the Maryland State Police Training Academy to complete a train the trainer course and become test proctors for drone pilot certification. The sound you heard at the very top of the episode was the drone being piloted by a responder at the event. We were there and spoke with several course participants, as well as S&T standards manager Kai-Dee Chu who had this to say about S&T's partnership with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST, and the importance of standardizing UAS training.
[00:00:38] Kai-Dee Chu: All the test methods developed are DHS-funded. NIST developed draft ASTM, standardized test methods, for the aircraft system UAS. We pretty much allowed NIST to develop these test methods. We don't tell them what to do. We tell them what the end result we want. We want to have a very fair test methods that all the manufacturers can accept and eventually, they came up with a set of, test methods that not only the developers that the manufacturers loved. They the first responders loved them too. So, it's fair, it's open and it's kind of welcomed with both arms.
[00:01:32] Dave: Kai-Dee mentioned the widespread adoption of the test standards and why they're so useful. Let's hear from the field, what NIST had to say.
[00:01:39] Adam Jacoff: My name's Adam, Jacoff from the National Institute of Standards and Technology. I lead this project, with S&T funding to develop standard test methods for emergency response, robots, air, ground, and water. DHS S&T has been our longest standing sponsor, years and years now, starting with the ground robots. So, without standard test methods, everyone can't measure themselves on the same measuring stick in order to be able to evaluate, in this case proficiency. So, it's measurement science, that we developed and then turned into a really simple, practical, inexpensive way for everyone to implement on their own. Oh, it's actually worldwide now. Across the country. it's a who's who of user communities, but I usually lead with the DHS affiliates, Components, the operational components, like Secret Service, the Border Patrol, FEMA, the State Departments of Public Safety, like all of Texas uses these tests already. Virginia, Colorado was the first actually the Department of Public Safety in Colorado adopted these tests very early on.
[00:02:48] Dave: One attendee from the Secret Service, a DHS component was clearly excited about the possibilities.
[00:02:54] Tim Sturgell: I am, Tim Sturgell. I'm the Assistant to the Special Agent in Charge of the counter surveillance and UAS training program at our James J. Rowley Training Center Secret Service Academy. I'm also the Chief Training Officer for our aviation program. We felt that it was a great benchmark for our future UAS Secret Service pilots as a measurement of their skillset. And going forward, we would like to expand it for in-service training with other federal state and local partners. And we were also very, intrigued with DHS partnership, with Secret Service and us being a DHS component, kind of made sense to keep this partnership going.
[00:03:36] Dave: And another drone pilot all the way from Mississippi was just as enthusiastic about the course's impact and potential.
[00:03:42] David Badely: I'm David Badely from the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency. We're taking back the standards from this training, and we’ll incorporate it into our statewide public safety UAS training and education. We're just gonna raise the bar to serve our community. It's a practical measure of, not only the pilot’s proficiency and ability to operate his aircraft, but the capabilities of that individual aircraft. There's a myriad of drones on the market and each drone is a little bit different.
[00:04:12] Dave: It's not just the measure of pilot proficiency, but also of drone capability. It's a true win-win for both the response community and private industry. We don't wanna forget to include what one of the hosts of the event had to say. Here's Corporal James Lantz with the Maryland State Police.
[00:04:27] Corporal James Lantz: I think it was a humbling experience for a lot of people. I had a couple of my guys come up and be like, this really shows you that if you don't fly, then you lose proficiency. And this here is a measurable way to show that you are proficient in both your flight and your camera manipulation and being able to manipulate your interface to get what's needed. I can work my interface. I know how to manipulate the zoom. I know how to manipulate the exposure compensation or the camera setting so that I get that good quality image. So then when I go out to that scene and I'm sitting there looking at that rail car on the side of the road, that's on its side in bright sunlight, and it has a yellow placard and it's washed out. What is that placard? Is it an oxidizer or is it the hazardous materials, you know, radioactive placard? Which one is it? Because that's gonna differentiate which way that I'm going to mitigate that hazard that I have out there.
[00:05:20] Dave: And for S&T that's what it's all about. Mitigating hazards and keeping responders both efficient and safe, not just right now, but as drone technology evolves.
[00:05:29] Kai-Dee Chu: It's important because we want to have certified drone pilots to fly these drones to make sure they operate safely, proficiently. But more than that is now that we have standards, we have common ground to talk about. That's the beauty of having these standards and certainly these standards are not stagnant. We need to revise them every two or three years, but we can always have the latest, the best test methods for our, operators and for our first responders. So that's the beauty of using these international standards as a training ground as a base for these training facilities because they are well tested, they're well accepted and also well managed in the future. Even after we are gone, these standards will still be there.
[00:06:34] Dave: Thanks for listening. This has been Tech Speak. Visit our website for more information about S&T's work with drones and standards, and be sure to follow us at DHS SciTech DHS, S C I T E C H. Bye.