A number of counties in North Dakota are involved in a project that combines law enforcement and research. The project, which will test small remote controlled air craft in a law enforcement setting, is headed up by Grand Forks deputy sheriff Al Frazier, who is also an assistant professor at the University of North Dakota.
The project will test a fixed wing air craft with 4 foot wing span, and a 3 foot helicopter.
The fixed wing model manufactured by AeroVironment, Inc., has an air time of over an hour and costs $175,000. The helicopter manufactured by Draganfly Innovations Inc., with a flight time of 30 minutes, carries a price tag of $45,000.
Both units are equipped with cameras capable of transmitting streaming video.
Both require a 2-man crew.
What would you want to know if you were shipping valuable cargo from one country to another or even just across Canada? The current location, that the shipment is on schedule, that the shipment is safe, perhaps all of the above and more.
Criminals are no different. The cargo may be different, drugs, weapons or other contraband as opposed to televisions, but the concerns are the same.
Individuals and business operating legitimately can in many instances insure their cargo. Not so criminals. If you are shipping drugs and they are stolen or seized by police they are gone, no insurance.
Recent seizures of drugs by authorities in different countries have revealed that many criminal organizations are now packing secret GPS and cellphone based trackers into their shipments as a form of insurance.
It has long been accepted there is no honor among thieves. Trust is also lacking. Legal GPS technology makes it possible for people and organizations that don’t trust each other to still do business with each other.
Some of the more sophisticated tracking devices allow for tracking not only the location of a shipment, but also the direction and the speed at which it is moving. It’s difficult for a driver to tell the shipper he is in Winnipeg heading west when the on board GPS device shows the shipment is in Toronto.
The relative ease of use and low-cost of such devices means their use will become common place even for less valuable shipments. In many instances the tracking devices are concealing within the shipment while in other instances the shipper openly indicates the presence of the tracking device as a warning to the delivery person not to stray from the agreed to route and timetable.
Some drug shipments assigned to legitimate express-mail services are fitted with the devices to ensure that the package does not make an unscheduled stop at a police facility prior to delivery.
I guess this indicates that criminals are grasping the importance of strategic planning.
The Alcolaser is a laser device developed in Russia which is able to detect alcohol in vehicles as they pass by the device.
The device which has been dubbed “BOUTON” (flower bud) was displayed at the International Exhibition of Police and Military equipment in Moscow in October.
The manufacturer claims that the device is capable of detecting low levels of alcohol (ethanol) in vehicles passing by the device at speeds of up to 150 km per hour, works in all weather conditions and requires no complex maintenance.
The device is capable of scanning the cab of a vehicle in o.1 seconds from a distance of 25 meters. Coupled with a plate reader it can capture the license plate of the vehicle in question which can then be transmitted by Wi-Fi signal to police at another location. Police can then stop the vehicle and perform further tests to determine if the driver is in fact impaired.
Impaired driving is a big problem in Russia. In 2010 Russia experienced 11,000 accidents that involved impaired drivers.
The manufacturer and Russian police will be conducting further tests on the device next year and it is anticipated that it will be deployed in Russia in 2012 or 2013.
The science behind the approach is not new. At least one American company started working on a similar device in 1995 but as of now I am not aware of any similar product available on the North American Market.
At this time there is no indication as to the cost of the device.