Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine recently announced the formation of an advisory group tasked with creating a model law enforcement policy for the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Among the prestigious UAS subject matter experts to serve and advise on the committee is University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS) aerospace engineering professor Kelly Cohen, PhD.
"All of us must be mindful that the use of drones for law enforcement purposes – however legitimate and justified – is still relatively uncharted territory," said Attorney General DeWine. "Citizens may have some understandable reservations about law enforcement's use of new technology like this, and this group will examine those issues."
Cohen has been involved with UAS—a.k.a. drones—at UC since 2007. He officially brought his expertise to UC in 2012 when he joined the CEAS faculty roster after 15 years of career building and teaching UAV technology in Israel.
Cohen’s research at CEAS, along with fellow aerospace engineering professor Manish Kumar, PhD, on the Surveillance for Intelligent Emergency Response Robotic Aircraft (SIERRA) program has been featured by NASA for its unique applications. Furthermore, Cohen has worked with UC CEAS fire science professor Larry Bennett, JD, BA, to spearhead a novel workshop for emergency first responders. Both projects place emphasis the positive impact of drones used in emergency situations. Drones equipped with infrared cameras and other sensors can help these emergency responders save lives—from a control pad, trained operators can send UAVs into hazardous situations to show first responders where the most critical needs are and detect where to look for survivors inside buildings.
Additionally, UC efforts with Psibernetix, an artificial intelligence (AI) development and consultation company founded and led by Cohen’s former doctoral student, Nick Ernest, PhD, concerning genetic fuzzy AI outsmarting combat pilots in simulation has garnered international media attention. Also promising is Cohen’s new UAV proposal for the UAV MASTER Lab with UC CEAS electrical engineering and computing systems professor Art Helmicki which has recently been funded by the Ohio Department of Transportation.
Drones aren’t just used for firefighting as they are also employed by law enforcement for a number of investigative purposes, such as crime scene and traffic accident investigations, missing persons cases, SWAT operations, and active shooter incidents. Therefore, the Ohio Attorney General’s Advisory Group on Unmanned Aircraft Systems will be chaired by Clayton Harris, Police Chief of Cuyahoga Community College, with the aim of issuing recommendations on best practices and protocols that agencies can consider when creating their own UAS policy.
In addition to Cohen and Harris, the advisory group includes the following members:
- J.Doug Daniels, Law Enforcement Training Officer, Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy
- Margot Kaminski, Assistant Professor of Law, The Ohio State University
- James Lawson, Director of Operations, Unmanned Aircraft Systems Center/Ohio Department of Transportation
- David Neef, Airport Traffic Controller, John Glenn Columbus International Airport
- Sgt. James Sanford, Medina County Sheriff's Office
- Dr. Andrew Shepherd, UAS Program Director, Sinclair Community College
- Daniel Stamm, Counter-UAS Program Manager, Battelle
- John Welsh, Aviation Safety Inspector, Federal Aviation Administration
Members of the advisory group will also serve as subject matter experts to advise the Attorney General's Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy in developing three new advanced training courses that will focus on investigating UAS complaints, the practical application of utilizing UASs, and implementing UAS programs. Thus making Cohen’s UAV expertise immensely invaluable to the new committee.
The first meeting of the Ohio Attorney General's Advisory Group on Unmanned Aircraft Systems was held on November 21, 2016, at the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy in London, Ohio.
Cohen says of the appointment, “I am humbled that I was called upon to serve the great state of Ohio in this capacity. I will strive to do my utmost to assist the advisory board meet the goals that have been set by the Attorney General. Additionally, together with our partners and collaborators, we wish to see Ohio become a major player in the emerging field of UAVs making a positive impact on society and national security.”