Updated Tue, Oct 1, 2013 10:38 am
Some call it a drone, while others refer to it as a radio-controlled expensive toy, but the Federal Aviation Administration implies it is a flying model simulator that can be used for search and rescue by law enforcement.
No matter what it’s called, Logan Police Officer Jason Gadrim has built several robots, and the latest is a flying model helicopter called the H-4 Hornet.
“This is not one you can buy in a store,” Gadrim explained. “I built this one just like the other robots I built. And it’s an expensive hobby.”
His hobby came in handy Saturday as he and his children were at Lake Logan taking pictures. While flying the H-4 Hornet, he witnessed a two-vehicle crash on state Route 664 South at the Lake Logan dam and captured it on video via a camera located on the Hornet.
Gadrim quickly landed the Hornet and ran to the aid of the two motorists. When he arrived on scene, he noticed an elderly gentleman in the second vehicle was passed out.
According to Gadrim, a vehicle was pulling into the dam area and was rear-ended by a 90-year-old man in the second vehicle. Both parties were taken to Hocking Valley Community Hospital by Hocking County EMS.
Witnesses of the accident said the woman driving the first vehicle turned into the parking lot and used her turn signal, but apparently the elderly gentleman did not see the vehicle turning.
The Hocking County Sheriff’s Office, Logan Fire Department and the Ohio State Highway Patrol also responded to the crash.
“This is a good thing with many benefits,” LPD Chief Aaron Miller said of the Hornet. “Gadrim is always developing or thinking of ways to help the department. I often marvel at his work.”
Gadrim’s quest for helping the department led him to research robots because he saw a need of locating suspects without causing undue harm to responding officers and also saw a need for searching for lost children.
He soon discovered how expensive robots were and knew the police department could never afford such an extravagant piece of equipment, but still realized there was a need for one and decided to pursue the prospect of building one of his own.
After doing research, Gadrim discovered he could build a robot, piece by piece, but it would take time since the parts were expensive. Little by little, Gadrim began purchasing the parts for his new hobby and soon had three outstanding good-to-go robot units ready to deploy.
As a member of the Logan-Hocking Special Response Team, Gadrim has deployed all three of his radio-controlled robots.
“My units look like handmade units, but they work very well and get the same job done as the more expensive, brand name units,” Gadrim said.
“I build these units in my basement and [am] currently working with a manufacturer to help produce them,” he added. “The goal is to provide small police departments like LPD with affordable robotic units to help keep responding officers safe from harm.”
If the Logan Police Department were to purchase a robot, it would cost about $20,000, but Gadrim says one can be built for much less.
“It took me approximately three years to research and purchase items to make my robots duty-worthy,” he said. “I have purchased many items while creating these robots and compared them to find the best quality for the best price. I have found what items work, as well as what items don’t work.”
Whatever Gadrim is doing, he’s doing it right. He has built two flying model helicopters and uses them frequently.
“No one owns air,” Gadrim said. “So there’s not a liability issue with flying my copter over houses, but I do have to keep it within site.”
While the robotic helicopters are not used for search warrants, Gadrim said they are instrumental in finding lost children and can save man hours in a rescue, as well as be used in an SRT raid.
“We can use one of the robots to go inside a house before we enter to see if there are any guns or anything that may be dangerous before we enter,” he explained.
The Hornet can hover for 30 to 35 minutes, while other helicopters hover for only 10 to 15 minutes. The Hornet also uses thermal images, has strobe lights for night flying, and will return to the spot it departed from if it's in trouble.
While the FAA does not address the size of the aircraft model, they do recommend Gadrim and other enthusiasts keep them below 400 feet above ground level, and fly a sufficient distance from populated areas.
For Gadrim, it’s more than just a hobby. “I do this to help protect the guys I work with,” he said. “It’s not for spying on people. It’s used for search and rescue missions.”
When Gadrim is not out chasing bad guys, he’s instructing his fellow officers on how to fly his latest gadget. So far, four officers from LPD have learned to fly the Hornet.
“He’s a genius,” Miller said. “These helicopters can be used with no intrusion to the public. They aren’t used to spy on people or anything of that nature, but they can be of great value to the department."