In the future, when European regulations allow, the National Police will have a new ally on hand to carry out complex tasks. It is an autonomous and electric aircraft, which can carry up to two people or 220 kilograms, and can reach unsafe places for a policeman, firefighter or health worker. “In the event of a disaster like the one at La Palma volcano, there were people left isolated by the lava, this drone could be sent to rescue them, without endangering any police operation,” explains Ángel Manuel Siles, the company’s chief inspector. Safety and Protection Aerial, on the EHang 216 autonomous vehicle, known as Megadron.
The person in charge of this project explains that the aircraft is intended to fly at a low altitude and will also have other functions, such as transporting emergency materials or various services to the scientific police. They can include different types of sensors, which range from video recordings and terrain analysis to detection of explosives, toxic gases, or other harmful elements. Chief Inspector Siles explained to EL PAÍS during the exhibition at Meta World Conferencewhich took place at La Nave in Madrid last weekend.
The aircraft, which can reach speeds of up to 130 kilometers per hour, is controlled entirely from the ground, using a computer that is flown to the take-off site. Inside, no flight operations are possible: there are no buttons or keyboards. It does have a screen, but according to the dealerships, it is for “entertainment”.
The State Aviation Safety Agency (AESA), the licensing body for all aircraft in Spain, follows European regulations and has not yet authorized the operation of this type of vehicle. Nor are there expectations to do so immediately. As for whether it will take a year or a decade, Seles prefers not to specify expectations, but he posits that “it won’t take that long.” The Chief Inspector recalls that air taxis, for example, are already viable from a technological point of view, but they are also still awaiting regulations and infrastructure that will allow them to operate commercially.
As long as there is no release date for it to be in mission mode, the National Police confirms that it already has qualified personnel. Seles explains that there are four policemen trained to fly this plane, in addition to being “the first in Spain and possibly in Europe”. He confirmed that the team was ready to fly “as soon as conditions arise”. For the time being, the aircraft has made test flights in safe places previously authorized by AESA, such as the National Police School in Avila, which has restricted airspace.
The agents explain that while operating the giant plane from the ground is easier than flying a helicopter and its energy consumption is more sustainable, it is an entirely different process. You have to plan in a short time frame, keeping take-offs and comebacks in mind. Since it is electric, its autonomy is limited to about 30 minutes (which can decrease if there is a lot of wind) and the maximum distance from the control center is 35 kilometers. Thus, it is necessary to transport it in a truck to the mission area to optimize the time and flight path as much as possible. Despite this, compared to conventional aircraft, it has the advantage of being smaller (5.6 meters wide and long) and does not require specific landing infrastructure.
Chief Inspector Siles confirms that this passenger drone is specifically designed for cities of the future, where there are so-called vertical ports, points on the roofs of buildings for vertical take-off and landing. “Like now you order Glovo or Uber or Cabify, you’ll order a drone and it’ll go up to your roof, so it can take you there and take you to another point. That’s the future, right? But the future is getting closer,” says Seals.
The plane was a donation brought about by a diplomatic agreement between China and Spain, which also gave away several small drones. In this way, the National Police became the first police force in Europe to have an autonomous aerial vehicle capable of transporting people. Now he wants to stay ahead. Companies joining the acquisition of this type of aircraft are moving faster. But when you’re pioneering something, you’re really creating benchmark innovation. If society can take advantage of these opportunities, that’s what interests us, ”adds Seles. In the meantime, the National Police continues to train with aircraft, train personnel and try to design operations for the future.
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