Hawthorne, NJ Police Department to Incorporate Drone Technology

About 20 miles west of Manhattan lies the town of Hawthorne, NJ, which was officially incorporated on March 24, 1898. It didn’t take long for people to appreciate Hawthorne as a suburban Manhattan community with modern conveniences. As of the most recent census, 19,637 people call Hawthorne home, a community that continues to provide the best in modern amenities for its citizens. Recently, Hawthorne Chief of Police James Knepper announced that the town would be soon equipped with the best in modern police technology by partnering with an up and coming drone company, BRINC.

Blake Resnick has always been fascinated with science and technology. On his website, he recalls how when he was only 14 years old, he built a fusion reactor in his garage. He attended Northwestern University for a short time before taking an internship with McLaren Automotive. He then went on to work for Tesla Motors, and finally DJI Inc., the largest drone company in the world. In 2020, Blake was named as one of 24 Thiel Fellows.

But, on October 1, 2017, as a Las Vegas resident, Blake’s view of the world changed. From his room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel, Stephen Paddock opened fire on a crowd attending a music festival below, ultimately killing 60 people and wounding 867 others. As stated on Blake’s website, “From the time the shooting began to when a SWAT unit finally broke down the door, one hour and five minutes had elapsed; over 58 people died.” As his website goes on to say, Blake “knew the right technology could have cut that time to minutes. This realization inspired the LEMUR drone.”

The LEMUR drone led to the founding of BRINC, a company that is dedicated to building hardware and software that allows first responders to save lives. It is this program that the Hawthorne Police Department, along with four other cities, will be deploying in the coming months. Although police departments across the nation have been using drone technology for some time now, BRINC’s system is a game changer in how drones streamline public safety.

Currently, most police departments have a designated team that loads a drone kit into a vehicle when being sent out to a call. Once onsite, the drone operator and an assistant set up, launch, and use the drone. While this has proven to be of assistance, Blake’s technology is poised to take first responder drone technology to the next level. BRINC’s drones come equipped with all the top of the line technology that the drone industry has become known for: superior maneuverability, facial recognition, high-resolution imagery, thermal imagery, and autonomous capability to name a few.

But what sets BRINC’s system, called Responder, apart is what Blake calls drone nests. These nests are stationed around a region to house drones. The nests keep the drones protected from environmental elements and act as charging stations. The nests also provide security from anyone trying to tamper with the drone. With the Responder system, a drone from within the network of nests will respond to a 911 call and be on the scene within 70 seconds. Once on scene, the drone can report necessary data to police officers before they reach the scene.

The Chula Vista Police Department in California, the first police department in the US to adopt drone technologies, had a chance to test out an earlier version of BRINC’s drone system. As Blake reported, Chula Vista was able to cancel about 25% of 911 calls because the drone had reported that the situation had already been solved or was not an emergency. Blake went on to describe some of these calls as “There’s a suspicious person in my neighborhood. The drone gets there, the person has already left or isn’t suspicious, they’re just not sending an officer. Or there’s an ‘obstruction in a roadway’ call, the drone gets there, someone else moved the obstruction, they’re not sending an officer. That’s happening a quarter of the time with the drone system.”

Having drones report as a first line of emergency response not only keeps responders tactically aware and safe, but it helps better utilize resources. Blake also pointed out that BRINC’s drone system goes beyond providing first responders with tactical awareness. The drones can be used to deliver lifesaving equipment such as NARCAN, automatic external defibrillators, flotation devices, or EpiPens when every second saved could mean a life saved. As BRINC’s website proudly proclaims, “Our mission at BRINC is to revolutionize public safety by leveraging technology to de-escalate dangerous situations. Each drone deployed to a dangerous situation is one less individual in harm’s way, and a potential life saved.”

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