How police could lose a 200k drone. pLN.? Expert analysis
Drones are becoming increasingly popular in various fields, including uniformed services. Polish police also use drones in their work, but things don't always go according to plan. In this article, we will look at an incident in which police lost a Matrice 200 drone and try to understand what mistakes were made and what can be done to avoid similar situations in the future.
Why the Matrice 200 costs so much?
Many gripping headlines describe drone lost by police as 200k equipment. pLN. Nevertheless, the drone is likely to be a DJI Matrice 200, which costs much less - ok. 30 thousand. Some write that it is a bureaucratic scam, because where is the rest of this dizzying amount of money? Well, no scam, because the price of the camera itself attached to the drone is higher than it is. For this equipment, separately, the unit probably purchased additional batteries, charging station, training, and accessories which together add up to this amount. The price of samemo lost equipment is actually approx. 70 thousand. pLN.
DJI Matrice 200 drone
What does a drone worth 200k have. pLN?
Matrice 200 is an advanced drone designed for industrial and commercial use. It is larger than the average consumer drone and has a more complex and powerful feature set. The drone is equipped with front obstacle detection sensors that allow it to fly safely. In addition, the drone is rainproof and has advanced orientation systems including GPS.
The camera system is interchangeable, so you can mount the equipment you need for your mission on the drone. The thermal imaging camera can be used by police to locate missing persons or suspects who are hiding in dark or wooded areas. This is because the drone can detect body heat signatures, even in total darkness or through the treetops, which can be extremely useful in search missions or apprehending suspects.
One of the most impressive features of the Matrice 200 is its ability to fly for up to 38 minutes on a single battery charge. This means that together with a range of up to 3.5 km, it can fly large areas without charging. Although the Matrice 200 is a bit outdated for a drone, it still impresses with its wide range of features and capabilities, e.g., automatic return to the launch site. So how could the loss have occurred and why is the search taking so long? Is it possible that the drone was damaged by an enemy anti-drone system?
Incident - how a drone was lost?
The loss of the drone occurred on May 5 near Maków Mazowiecki during operational activities in an unpopulated area where farmland and meadows spread out. Tomasz Krupa, a spokesman for the Podlasie police in an interview with Onet says:
- It is too early to say what happened. As the drone was returning to the launch site, the pilot lost control of it and the machine disappeared from sight. The battery had enough for a few minutes of flight -
Drone went down and search continues from ground and air. It is possible that the broken drone hovered in the treetops.
DJI Matrice 200 drone controlled by Polish police (Photo: Jaroslaw Gorny)
What mistakes the police may have made?
How did such a professional machine go missing? Could it have been a hostile anti-drone system? Police do not know the exact causes - I think we can talk about any mechanical-electronic failure - explains the spokesman. We will explain what are the possible scenarios.
A drone is electronics that, like any other equipment, can fail. We have been running the service for years, so we know that there are many possibilities. The most common are mechanical failures, non-functioning wires or strands, transmitters, or uncalibrated sensors.
Improper storage and old batteries
Powerful batteries TB50 and TB55 powering the machine are intelligent. This means that they discharge themselves into the proper storage mode and have safety features. Nevertheless, they are the ones that need to be cared for the most, as leaving them alone for too long leads to swelling and destruction. Given that the equipment was purchased in 2019., the batteries may have dislodged from the swell, and the drone went down because it had no power.
There are anti-drone systems (one of the leading companies is even from Gdynia) that, by sending a strong electro-magnetic pulse, are able to knock down a drone or force it to land by disrupting communications. The distance from the Polish border is too far for this to be possible, so it could not be the work of a "hostile anti-drone system.". As already, such a person with the right equipment would have to be in Poland.
Incorrect procedure for returning to the starting point
A well-trained drone operator knows that the return procedure needs to be started well in advance. Advanced equipment such as the Matrice 200 automatically calculates at what distance it is and informs the user in advance that the battery has reached a given critical point, e.g., 25% battery left and you should return. If the batteries were dead, and the person in control of the drone started the return procedure too late, the drone may have discharged, during return.
Loss of coverage
Equipment malfunctions can also be affected by other interference such as telecommunication towers, etc. The drone has an option to set what it should do if it loses range. It can return to the starting point or stop and hover in the air. If the operator chose the second option and could not find the drone, the machine waited in place until the landing procedure began.
What actions can be taken to find the drone?
The drone is, of course, currently in demand, and this is the first of the activities that any of us would rationally start. However, steps can be taken to effectively help locate the drone. DJI is a professional equipment that, thanks to GPS, records information such as the location of the drone, its altitude, etc.- in the app. You can also use a free tool such as Airdata, which, when you connect the instrument to a computer, shows even more detailed data.
We know because we fly. A few months ago, during a risky flight, our DJI Mavic 3 drone fell into the water for us. It happened quite close to the seashore near Kuznica. It was cold, so fishing out by hand was impossible. However, we concluded that we would attempt to fish out the equipment with an underwater drone with a grapple, which is also in our drone fleet. First, however, we needed to know the exact last location of our drone. To do this, our service technician hooked up the controller to a computer with the Airdata application. We were able to see the location of the drone, the entire course of the last flight, and even how the operator controlled the rods.
The end of the story was that we were unable to launch the underwater drone because the waves and currents of the sea were too big... but maybe you, dear reader, will be the one to find our mavic while swimming on Hel? (as something, it's entrance number 31 forge :)
But let's go back to the police drone! The same could now be done by the Polish police to find the lost. With fewer obstacles, after all, the drone was not swept away by any sea currents. The controller was left in the hands of the police, and there is all the data.
Potential opportunities to avoid losing your drone
In addition to crying over spilled milk, it is worth considering how to avoid such situations. The advanced equipment is equipped with a number of features that inform the user about possible failures and malfunctions of the equipment. When something is wrong, the corresponding notifications appear in the app. To avoid such incidents, therefore, it is necessary to carefully inspect the equipment.
Thoroughly check the equipment before the flight
Before starting, check that no errors appear in the application. It is necessary to carefully examine the propellers for damage and whether they are properly fitted, because even a small crack, can lead to disruption of aerodynamics and an accident. To be sure, you can have your drone professionally inspected every now and then.
A great many drone users don't know or don't pay attention to the importance of proper battery care. Regular care of batteries prolongs their life and improves safety during flights. Neglected or damaged batteries can lead to drone failure and, as is likely the case here, loss of the drone. For those interested, we leave a link to the article from six tips on how to maintain your battery.
The drone has a built-in GPS, but if it discharges, it will not give the location. That's why it's a good idea to attach a separate locator to the drone, which can be bought for a small amount of money. A similar solution is to use an independent LED that would make it easier to find the drone at night.
Drones are a valuable tool for monitoring and law enforcement. It is important that the police have the necessary qualifications and technical expertise to ensure safety during drone operations. We know that officers receive proper training in the use of equipment, and an accident can always happen. Nevertheless, proper education is a must.
Drones will only become more numerous and used more often. Poland's public service could therefore look into putting in place additional safeguards that would preclude the possibility of a drone being hacked.
Putting contact information on the drone
This additional advice is for you the reader, or a colleague who flies. It's always a good idea to put your phone number on the drone, because if it's lost when all else fails, you may find someone to give it back to you. In the case of the police, however, the time of disappearance of the drone is already so long that you can probably find it somewhere on allegro.
In conclusion, the loss of the Matrice 200 drone by the Polish police indicates the need for proper training and procedures when using advanced technology such as drones. Proper maintenance and storage of equipment is important to prevent breakdowns. As the search for the missing drone continues, it remains to be seen what caused its disappearance and whether it will be recovered.