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Daytona Beach Police Use a Drone to Resolve Six-Hour Standoff with Man Threatening to Bomb Hotel

BY Isabella Lee
24 September 2019

Police in Daytona Beach, Florida used a drone to bring a frightening situation to a peaceful resolution on Saturday, September 21st. Guests at the Ocean Breeze Club Hotel were ordered to evacuate when a 45-year-old New Jersey man threatened to set off a grenade in his room.

Daytona Beach Police Chief Craig Capri with a small drone. Source: Embry-Riddle

The Daytona Beach Police Department (DBPD)’s Unmanned Aviation Unit flew a drone outside the hotel room to assess the threat and determined the grenade was not operational.

David B. Allen – an Atlantic City resident – has been arrested and charged with aggravated assault and for making a false bomb threat.

How a Drone Helped the DBPD Respond to a Bomb Threat on Atlantic Avenue

The DBPD reports that Volusia County emergency dispatchers received a call around 7:30 Saturday morning indicating that Allen was making suicidal threats and throwing furniture inside the fifth-floor hotel room he was in onto the balcony.

DBPD Drone Standoff
Allen’s barricaded hotel room. Source: DBPD

What followed was an over six-hour standoff with Allen and the police. Hotel guests were evacuated for safety, and a public address system was utilized to communicate with Allen. During the standoff, Allen refused to leave his room to talk to police and threatened to detonate the grenade should officers attempt to force their way inside.

It was a drone that allowed the police to get the information they needed to diffuse the situation. Drone footage obtained by the DBPD’s Unmanned Aviation Unit confirmed the furniture on the balcony. It also confirmed that the hand grenade Allen had in his possession was only a dummy grenade and not operational.

Officers eventually took Allen into custody around 1 p.m. after luring him out of the room with a can of soda that he had requested. There was Taser deployment during the takedown, reports DBPD.

Assistance was also provided by Units with Volusia County Beach Safety and the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office Bomb Squad.

DBPD’s Unmanned Aviation Unit

DBPD launched its Unmanned Aviation Unit in 2017, in collaboration with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University—the first University in the nation to launch a UAS program. Embry-Riddle provided training for the five aviation program officers so they could become certified by the Federal Aviation Administration to fly drones.

Since the formation of the unit, the DBPD has used drones in a number of incidents including the capture of a murder suspect, assisting with damage assessment after Hurricane Irma, and to watch over large events like the Daytona 500.

At a press conference earlier this year, DBPD Seargeant Tim Ehrenkaufer reported that the department had increased its use of drones.

The deployment of UAS for DBPD has become invaluable. We are seeing increased requests from officers for a UAS response.

— DBPD Sgt. Tim Ehrenkaufer

DBPD’s UAS operations follow FAA regulations and the same U.S. Department of Justice rules and regulations as any other law enforcement work. The officers have ensured the community that the drones would not be used in ways that would encroach on their privacy.

Drones Have Become a Valuable Technology for Law Enforcement

Police Departments across the country are using drones in their work. We can estimate that public safety professionals account for around 5% of drone users based on responses to our 2019 Drone Industry Survey and Skylogic’s 2018 Drone Market Report. And that number is forecasted to increase as drone adoption grows.

So what are public safety agencies using drones for? There are many applications, including search and rescue, documenting crime scenes, and accident scene reconstruction. We cover more public safety drone applications in this article here.

“A public safety agency’s sUAS unit can reduce the risk to its first responders and increase efficiency during an emergency response or recovery effort,” said Dr. Joe Cerreta, an assistant professor at Embry-Riddle.

Check out these other public safety stories demonstrating how police are using drones:

Let us know what you think of the DBPD’s recent use of a drone to end a standoff in this thread on our community forum.

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