Criminal Justice Update
Media > Newsletters > On the Job: Criminal Justice Update > Spring 2018 > Q&A: J. Doug Daniels, senior law enforcement training officer, remote pilot, Ohio Peace Officer Trai

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Criminal Justice Update

Q&A: J. Doug Daniels, senior law enforcement training officer, remote pilot, Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy (OPOTA)

Law enforcement training officers provide advanced instruction to peace officers and other criminal justice professionals on a wide array of topics. Daniels teaches a refresher course for peace officers returning from a break in service, as well as firearms, officer survival, patrol tactics, and first aid courses. Daniels has a remote pilot certificate from the FAA and served on the Attorney General’s Advisory Group on Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS).

How did you get interested in drones?

In 2015, I was working at OPOTA as a law enforcement instructor and our traffic crash investigations instructor told me he had staged a crash on the track and that a drone pilot was coming to take photos. So, I went out to take a look. He had a DJI Phantom with a GoPro. I looked over his shoulder at the tablet and a lightbulb went off in my head. I started wondering what we could do to make this a better tool for law enforcement.

What small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) courses are being offered now at OPOTA?

Implementing a Public Safety Small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS)/Drone Program, Investigating sUAS/Drone Complaints, sUAS/Drone Basic Operator, and sUAS/Drones As a Training Tool for Instructors. To sign up, visit
Can you give us some details?

Implementing a Public Safety sUAS/Drone Program is an eight-hour class on what an agency needs to do if it wants to start a program.
Investigating sUAS/Drone Complaints is a legal class. If an agency gets complaints about someone flying a drone, officers need to know what steps to take. Laws already on the books can be applied to drone complaints. For example, voyeurism using a camera on a drone is the same as voyeurism with a handheld camera. The class will cover evidentiary issues and even go into explaining how to recover evidence from a drone’s micro SIM card. We’ll cover the rules of airspace. A lot of people don’t know that they don’t own the airspace around their property. From the top of the blades of grass and up is Federal Aviation Administration-regulated territory. A property owner doesn’t own the air. However, where there are “No Drone” signs, a pilot can’t take off or land.

The sUAS/Drone Basic Operator focuses on learning how to safely fly the drone, Any member of law enforcement operating a UAS should have a current remote pilot certificate per 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 107 issued by the FAA. The certificate involves passing a written test. It is possible to be a pilot who doesn’t know how to fly. The basic flying course will cover maneuvers and will finish with a flight test.

The sUAS/Drones As a Training Tool for Instructors will teach instructors how a drone can be used to enhance training. For example, a drone can provide different angles on a traffic stop and allow an instructor to make his or her point more effectively.

Where will these courses be offered?

All of the courses, including those that involve flight, will be offered in London. Lecture classes will be offered in Richfield because of logistics and airspace issues.

What other UAS courses might we expect?

We are looking at training officers to use drones at crime scenes, traffic crashes, and in SWAT situations.

We would like to offer a course on using thermal-imaging cameras, which can be tricky and involve flying at night. If an agency is searching for someone, such as a lost child or a missing hiker, a thermal-imaging camera on a drone can pick up on that person’s heat signature and pinpoint his or her location. Those cameras can also be useful to firefighters to locate hot spots. With fire service and law enforcement, we might want to cross-train. A law enforcement agency’s drone may be called out to help the fire department in a structure fire.

We are working on a visual observer training course. In law enforcement and public safety, a drone pilot needs a visual observer because as the pilot is looking at a tablet and trying to get the data, photographs, or other evidence, he or she can’t always look at what is going on around the drone. An airplane might fly into the area, or the drone might get close to a power line. A visual observer needs to be watching to avoid problems. There will be some demonstrations and some practicals in which they will participate.

Have you had a lot of interest in the courses?

Oh, yes. We’ve even had inquiries from outside Ohio. During an outside peer review, we found that we have a lot of support.

When you have the drone classes, will departments bring in a drone?

If the course requires a drone, officers must bring their own agencies’ drones.

What was your experience serving on the Attorney General’s Advisory Group on Unmanned Aircraft Systems?

The advisory group brought together a unique group of people. We had representatives from law enforcement, education, the FAA, aviation, the public, and, of course, UAS programs. Our meetings were well-attended. We had outside organizations and members of the general public come sit in. I didn’t know Chief Clayton Harris was a pilot until I served with him on the group. As it turns out, Lt. Steve Schueler of the Blue Ash Police Department and I were among the 3,300 people who took the first 107 test in the nation when it was offered on Aug. 29, 2016.

Everyone worked together well, and I think the report covers topics that are important to agencies hoping to start a UAS program. The advisory group’s work is finished, but we can continue using the members as a subject matter expert committee.

Drone use in law enforcement is evolving, right?

Yes, with the UAS, there’s very little or no case law. The laws are written for manned aircraft. Sooner or later, UAS cases will be tested in court. The technology is progressing fast, and it can be hard to keep up with it.

Drone use is evolving in the private sector, as well. Construction companies, solar heating companies, electric companies, and telephone companies doing tower inspections are finding out that using drones can save them money. It’s a tool that is taking off and running ahead of everyone else.

Does OPOTA have a drone?

OPOTA has a DJI Inspire 1.2 with an x3 camera, a z3 camera, and a thermal imaging camera. It was purchased with drug-seizure money and is registered with the FAA. The drone can carry up to 8 pounds. We’ve used it to take photos and videos of the driving and traffic crash courses. We’ve documented the firearms course. We’ve been monitoring the decay of three pig carcasses for a forensics class. I fly out once a week and document the decay. Next we are going to document the grass growth over the shallow graves.

The Daniels File

Previous jobs:  Sergeant, Greenfield Police Department (23 years); Daniels Photography; Daniels Bros. Farms

Memberships: Airborne Public Safety Association, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), AUVSI Wright-Kettering Chapter, International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors, International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association, International Public Safety Association, National Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors Association, and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems Association

Hobbies:  Performing as a seasonal street actor at the Ohio Renaissance Festival; flying unmanned aircraft systems

Contact information: 740-845-6304;