Flying Robot from Canadian Company Aids Central American Drug Raid

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The Aeryon Scout, a small man-packable flying robotic UAV system, manufactured by Aeryon Labs of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada gave law enforcement officers the break they needed in a recent drug bust in Central America. The reconnaissance photos taken allowed for a successful raid and subsequent conviction.

Actual photo taken from the Aeryon Scout UAV during drug raid planning

This might sound like a plot from a TV show like CSI or 24, but it’s a real-life application of our robotic technology.

The Aeryon Scout, a small man-packable flying robotic system, manufactured by Aeryon Labs of Waterloo, Ontario, gave law enforcement officers the break they needed in a recent drug bust in Central America.

The Aeryon Scout -- a small, lightweight mini-helicopter that is remote-controlled from the ground by computer -- was able to provide visual surveillance of a suspected narcotic trafficker’s compound deep in the jungle. The Scout provides the features of larger unmanned aerial systems (UASs) in a small package, at a fraction of the cost.

“This might sound like a plot from a TV show like CSI or 24, but it’s a real-life application of our robotic technology,” said Dave Kroetsch, President of Aeryon Labs. “This is what the Scout was designed for: providing aerial intelligence in settings too challenging or dangerous for humans to venture into.”

Kroetsch said the law enforcement officers took the Aeryon Scout into the jungle, in hostile territory, under the cover of darkness. At first light they cleared a small launch area, took the Scout out of its suitcase-sized case, and snapped it together. Measuring only 80 cm by 80 cm when assembled and weighing just over a kilogram, the Scout was easy to transport. They then set the robot’s target by selecting the location of the drug compound using a touch-screen satellite-map interface on a portable computer tablet. The target location was approximately 1 km from the operator. For security reasons the actual date and location of the operation cannot be publicized.

The Scout, which can quietly travel as far as three kilometres from the operator’s location and up to 500 metres off the ground, is ideal for this type of beyond line-of-sight surveillance as the officers did not need to see the unit to control it. Once at the target location, the Scout’s motion-compensated camera took digital still images and streamed encrypted digital video in real-time to the operator’s computer, with no risk to the investigating officers.

The images enabled the enforcement team to determine the interior layout of the compound, establish what vehicles were inside, identify possible escape routes, and assess what security measures were in place. Most importantly they were able to see a gap in the wire surrounding the compound that was then used as the entry point for the raid. The successful bust resulted in the arrest of the drug gang members. Before the use of the Aeryon Scout, law enforcement officers would typically drive an armoured vehicle through the wall of the compound and face unknown circumstances on the other side.

The drug bust is just one of the scenarios where the Aeryon Scout is useful to police and similar agencies. Easily carried in a backpack, the Aeryon Scout assists with documenting accident scenes, following fleeing suspects, and aiding in search and rescue operations in day or night, especially beyond line-of-sight of the operator. Military units can use it to scope out areas with dangerous or rugged terrain. There are also industrial applications such as inspecting the exterior of buildings or gathering air samples from exhausts and smokestacks.

“The Scout’s low noise, radar, visual and heat signatures make it an ideal platform for covert tactical imagery collection. You can set it up in a couple of minutes out of its case, fly the mission, and be gone without ever alerting the target. And if you can play a simple video game, you can fly the Scout,” said Charles Barlow, President Zariba Security Corporation and former Canadian intelligence officer.

Aeryon Labs designed the Scout system to be easy enough for even non-technical people to use with minimal training. Its on-board computer system supervises all aspects of the mission, allowing the operator to focus on completing a task.

“We’re excited to have developed robotic technology which is practical and affordable for law enforcement, military and security forces, and can save lives. And that’s priceless,” said Kroetsch.

About Aeryon Labs Inc. – http://www.aeryon.com:
Aeryon Labs provides robotic solutions to real-world problems through the design and manufacture of small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and related systems. With a background in robotics, control systems, and digital imaging, the Aeryon team is able to bring leading-edge products to market and provide custom solutions. Aeryon Labs was recently named one of Canada’s Top 25 ICT Up and Comers in the Branham Group300 ranking of Canadian Information and Communications Technology (ICT) companies.

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Marni McVicar
Aeryon Labs Inc
519-489-6726 ext. 234
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