Case Studies

Search & Rescue UAS Training Exercise in Leesburg, VA

Search and Rescue UAS Training

Last week, we had the pleasure of participating in a multi-agency search and rescue training exercise hosted by our customers from the Leesburg Police Department UAS Team at Veterans Park at Ball Bluff. The George Mason Police Department UAS Team, Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) UAS Team, Town of Leesburg Office of Emergency Management, and Prince William County Police Department Search and Rescue also participated and conducted several search and rescue iterations integrating multiple UAS teams with canine.

One of the primary goals for the event was to pressure-test the new DroneSense 2020 Platform in a real-world scenario that involved other agencies, all operating in a UAS-rich environment.

Leesburg established a number of combined K9 / UAS search scenarios including using firearms, role players, and other objects in both open fields and wooded environments. Here are some of the observations we made as these scenarios were conducted:

Simple internet setup performed impressively well

Nearly all flights conducted during the training exercise were tracked and streamed via DroneSense Ops Hub using a variety of 4G-enabled devices. The most capable device in that environment turned out to be a personal mobile phone with FirstNet which reliably provided all internet service for one UAS team (upload and download) for the entire event.

Connectivity challenges can vary greatly from mission to mission, but in this scenario teams were able to stream multiple videos continuously for hours in a rural environment without any additional equipment.

Experienced pilots outperform more expensive drones

Throughout these exercises, more experienced pilots were able to detect role players in wooded and open environments more consistently and more quickly than less experienced pilots even when the less experienced crew had substantially more capable hardware.

It can’t be stressed enough how important it is for public safety drone programs to invest the time in these types of events and other hands-on training opportunities to increase their pilots’ experience levels and conduct more successful missions.

The Matrice 300 is a powerful drone in more ways than one

Any operation involving multiple drones flying in one area generally requires some RF coordination to ensure no two drones or hotspots or WiFi networks are fighting each other trying to communicate through a particular band or channel. Adding the M300 to the mix in this operation provided extraordinary performance but it also caused the pilot of a Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual to completely lose connection with the aircraft on two occasions by simply flying in the general vicinity of the M300 while safely separated in altitude. In one case the Mavic entered a lost connection sequence and nearly made it to the home point before finally regaining connection.

Successful multi-agency operations require specific skills

Many public safety UAS operations involve more than one agency, so it’s critically important for UAS teams to be prepared to collaborate with neighboring departments. This training enabled teams to work on coordination, communications and safety in a real world environment. These skills are all critical when multiple teams are deployed operationally, and mastering them ensures success in the field.

We were excited for the opportunity to help streamline some of this collaboration with a feature that’s a brand new part of the DroneSense 2020 Platform, Collaborative Mission Codes. Mission Codes enable pilots from different DroneSense accounts to operate together within a single mission. This creates a unified view of the mission with all pilot locations, flight paths, and video feeds on a single screen while recording all flight logs in their respective accounts.

Search and Rescue UAS Training

It’s always valuable for our team to work with first responders face-to-face in these types of events to help people use the DroneSense Platform to its fullest extent and gather feedback on what improvements we can make that will make the biggest impact on their operations. Of course, it’s fantastic to hear from first responders that they find value in having us out in the field with them as well.

“The inclusion of DroneSense in the training assured that we were using the platform to its maximum potential and allowed us to find areas where the program could be further developed to increase its capabilities even further. DroneSense allows for a total picture of the operational sphere to be produced for commanders and responders in the field. The use of DroneSense gives those involved critical information to provide a holistic public safety solution in the safest and quickest manner possible. These types of training events help all the parties involved maximize their potential to provide actionable intelligence to the public safety community.”

– Kevin Zodrow from Leesburg Police Department, Andy John from Virginia Department of Emergency Management, and Michael Lighthiser from George Mason University

If you’re interested in having DroneSense participate in a training exercise near you, please reach out to Lisa Messelt at