How Long Can A Police Drone Stay In The Air?

Recently, at a parade I attended, we saw a buzzing police drone surveying the crowd. As a drone enthusiast, I was excited to see a quadcopter on “duty”!

It also made me wonder – how long can a police drone stay in the air?

The answer is anywhere between 40 minutes to one hour.

This duration is influenced by a number of factors, including the drone model. Some drones, like the JOUAV surveillance drones, can stay in the air for a whopping 240 minutes!

Police drones are increasingly employed to perform tasks like surveillance, search and rescue, traffic monitoring, investigation, etc. The police use different models depending on the task at hand.

Let’s explore these law enforcement crafts and the factors impacting their flight duration.

What Are Police Drones?

How Long Can A Police Drone Stay In The Air?

Police drones are advanced UAVs equipped with sophisticated technology and high-definition cameras.

They can hover for long durations and have the ability to see at night as well as detect heat signatures through thick foliage.

The six applications of drones in law enforcement are:

1.    Surveillance and Monitoring – Using a single drone, large crowds can be monitored effortlessly from above.

This reduces the manpower needed on the ground. It is also a more efficient way to oversee crowd dynamics.

2.    Crime Scene Investigation – With aerial photography, investigators can ensure that no piece of evidence is overlooked/tampered with.

The high-resolution cameras of police drones like the DJI Mavic 3 Enterprise offer unmatched clarity for precise investigations.

3.    Search & Rescue – Thermal cameras in police drones like the Teledyne FLIR SIRAS can see at night as well as detect heat signatures through smoke and other obstacles. Thus, it’s a useful tool during search ops.

4.    Traffic Management – Drones monitor traffic and relay real-time data to the authorities.

This is helpful in keeping a tab on traffic flow, congestion, illegal driving, accidents, etc., and providing speedy solutions.

Drones with an extended transmission range (like the JOUAV surveillance drones) are used for providing uninterrupted feedback.

5.    Tactical Operations – By offering an aerial perspective, drones can make high-risk operations safer for officers. Police drones are usually weather-resistant to enable flight in any condition.

6.    Training and Strategy Formulation – The footage captured by drones is used to recreate real-world scenarios. This data can be used for both training and analysis purposes.

What’s The Importance of Endurance in Police Drones?

Endurance is a prerequisite for police drones. That is because time and weather are no considerations when on duty!

Monitoring and surveillance requirements can arise at any time of the day or night. Police drones must be ready to take off from anywhere and have the stamina to provide uninterrupted aerial footage.

This requires the drone to be in top condition at all times.

It is also important for the drone to be robust so it can fly in any weather conditions. The ability to withstand rain, fog, and snow is a crucial requirement, as rescue ops often arise in inclement weather and terrain.

The DJI Matrice 350 RTK, a common police drone, comes with an IP54 rating that makes it weather-resistant.

What factors affect the endurance of police drones?

The endurance and flight time of a police drone define its ability to tackle operational tasks. Below, I’m listing the factors that contribute to the robustness of these crafts:

A.   Battery Technology

The battery is the main source of power for the drone. Hence, it is an important determinant of the drone’s flight duration.

Police drones are usually fitted with lithium polymer or lithium ion batteries which offer high energy density.

These batteries are also lightweight and occupy less space. This keeps the overall weight of the drone low, thereby increasing flight time.

But even the highest quality batteries offer a time-bound flight duration. To overcome this deficiency, hybrid and alternative fuel batteries are being explored. 

More on this in subsequent paragraphs.

B.   Drone Design and Weight

Can the design and weight of police drones impact their flight duration?

Certainly, the design of the drone contributes to its aerodynamic efficiency. The type of rotor in the drone design is a decisive element in its speed and airborne capabilities.

·  Multirotor drones are apt for surveying smaller areas like mines, construction sites, etc., They have the ability to hover and are easy to maneuver.

·  Fixed-wing drones are employed in patrolling as they can cover large distances. They can stay airborne for longer durations but are unfit for rugged terrain as they require a runway for takeoff.

·  Hybrid fixed-wing drones are the multitaskers. They can take off and land vertically (VTOL), cover large distances, and also hover!

The weight of a drone is inversely proportional to its flight time. That’s because heavier drones need more power to keep them airborne. This depletes the battery faster, thereby offering lesser flight time.

C.  Operational Factors Affecting Drone Flight Time

Environmental and usage conditions significantly impact a drone’s ability to stay airborne. Flying at high altitudes or sudden changes in speed deplete the battery faster, thereby reducing flying time.

Similarly, prolonged hovering, aggressive maneuvers, and abrupt stopping will make the battery exhaust faster.  

The weather can be a battery drainer, too. Extreme temperatures, high winds, and humidity affect the battery performance and aerodynamic competence.

Besides flight time, these factors can also mess with the drone’s sensitive inner machinery.

Now you have an answer to the question – how do operational factors like weather conditions affect police drone endurance?

Although most police drones are significantly weather-resistant, the battery drain in such conditions is still a recurring issue.

What Is The Average Flight Time For Different Models Of Police Drones?

The average police drone flight time varies between 30 minutes to 2 hours! It all depends on the task at hand.

Police drones that are used for patrolling large areas like highways, coastlines, etc., can stay airborne for up to 4 hours.

Drones like the Autel EVO II Pro can stay airborne for up to 40 minutes. The DJI Matrice 350 RTK has a flight time of 55 minutes. The Jouav drones can fly for up to 3 hours.  

The police have a variety of drone models fitted with customized accessories for specific purposes. So, how long does a police drone fly?

The speed, battery, flying conditions, and rotor design will ultimately determine the average flight times for police drones.

How do advances in drone technologies contribute to extended flight time?

With their wide application, police drones are a much-sought-after technology. They offer improved visual capabilities, rapid response times, safer missions, and cost savings.

Given these efficiencies, agencies are now investing in increasing the prowess of drones. One aspect of this is increasing police drone endurance

Optimizing drone endurance in law enforcement operations will significantly boost their role in this sector.  

The flight time in present drones is limited by battery capacity. Increasing the battery size will not help as this will also increase overall drone weight.

You must be wondering – are there specific battery technologies used for extending drone flight time? Yes, the solution lies in alternative power sources.

Solar-powered police drones are one such remedy. Using solar energy as fuel, these drones can be powered by an unlimited source.

This will enable long-distance flights, allowing the police to cover more ground. Being cost-effective and eco-friendly, these drones are sure to be an asset in the future.

But are solar-powered police drones a practical solution for longer flight times? Despite their laudable capabilities, solar-powered drones suffer from certain limitations.

The foremost being their inability to charge in cloudy weather. The initial cost and maintenance of these drones also tend to be higher than average.  

Another solution is hybrid propulsion systems for drone endurance. What are hybrid propulsion systems, and how do they impact drone endurance, you ask?

A hybrid system is one which uses two or more energy sources to generate power. These may be gas-electric or solar power-electric, depending on the configuration used.

By offering two or more sources of power, hybrid systems will increase endurance as well as cost-effectiveness. They also reduce complete reliance on non-renewable sources and make the operation sustainable.

The exploration of various means to enhance flight time for law enforcement drones is a key research component in the drone industry. It remains to be seen how soon these options can be made commercially viable.

What Measures Can Law Enforcement Take To Optimize Drone Flight Time During Operations?

The ways to optimize flight time are the same for both industrial-grade and consumer drones. Here are some ways to prolong flying time:

–       The drone weight must be kept low. This means using lightweight batteries and other accessories.

–       Although not always possible for police drones, flying in rain or snow must be avoided at all costs. The presence of moisture in the battery or drone circuit can wreak havoc.

–       Retract the drone at 20% battery strength and replace batteries to continue flying.

–       AI can offer some optimization methods to increase flight time by adjusting flying parameters.

–       Careful route planning and smart flying at moderate speeds enhance the drone’s flight time.  

Conclusion

Police drones are advanced crafts equipped with the latest protective and performance technology. But the average police drone can stay in the air for just over 40 minutes.

The drone model, weight, flying conditions, and battery will decide the precise duration that the drone can stay in the air. Of all the factors, the battery technology for police drones remains the most crucial.

Advances in police drone technologies are an ever-evolving domain. Efforts are being made to increase battery capacity to amplify drone endurance.

Perhaps, in the very near future, we will see drones that can fly for hours without recharging. Or that self-charge while flying! Who knows?

FAQ

1. Which batteries are used in police drones?

Lithium-ion (Li-ion) and Lithium Polymer (Li-Po) are the commonly used batteries in police drones.

2. Do police drones carry weapons?

No, police drones are mostly used for aerial surveillance.

3. What color lights are used by police drones?

Red and blue are the commonly used colors in police drones. This is because the two colors are easy to identify

4. What are some special features found on police drones?

Thermal imaging, optical zoom, infrared technology, LiDar, etc., are some special capabilities in a police drone.

Author
Diptesh Das

Diptesh Das is your friendly ‘content maniac’ and drone enthusiastic! Being passionate about content writing. He is a firm believer of the power of words and thereby ended up leveraging them to create an impact by sharing his drone knowledge and experiences.

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