NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.— A California-based company is beginning to market mobile control centers that law enforcement or rescue workers can use to launch drones.
The company, Information Processing Systems of California, calls them "Mobile Incident Command Platforms"—they are modified Ford trucks that can house security cameras, sensors, radar and communication infrastructure and can be outfitted with trailers to carry drones, which can then be commanded from within the center. The company demonstrated the van at the Sea Air Space Expo held here Tuesday.
Jim West, grants navigator for the company, says the vans could be purchased by state law enforcement and then quickly deployed in case of a hostage situation, natural disaster or terrorist attack. He also suggests they could be used for security at large public events, such as the Super Bowl. Earlier versions of the van, without drone capabilities, have been used at the Rose Bowl. Those earlier versions have been sold to the California, Georgia, Montana, North Carolina and Missouri National Guards.
Newly-outfitted vans that have drone command capabilities will be sold for about $400,000 according to company founder Clarence Boice. The company plans to demonstrate the technology for the Department of Homeland Security for unmanned aircraft operation along the border and to other law enforcement departments.
Boice says he plans on renting the vans to commercial companies to perform a variety of tasks, including monitoring pipelines and surveying land and farmland. That will allow the company to rent the vans out to law enforcement or public agencies as needed.
Frank Woodward, who handles unmanned and manned aerial vehicle integration for the company, says that while the vans do have law enforcement uses, drones are "used for more than just killing people."
"I see them being used for critical infrastructure inspections with things like bridges and utility lines and water tanks," he says.
But he also says they would be useful for law enforcement purposes.
An officer "has to be able to see what's happening from all the sensors. With this he can get all the data and pull it into one spot. He can have a robot in the water, a [drone] in the sky above and have all the video coming in on the spot without having all these different command posts," he says. "That's the value of the truck."