Travis Air Force Base Is First to Get Drone Sentry for Protection

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A new patrolling drone at Travis Air Force Base, California
The 60th Air Mobility Wing Security Forces tests a new patrolling drone at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., Feb. 25, 2020. The drone would give security forces airmen an option for quick response to various scenarios or events on Travis AFB. (Nicholas Pilch/U.S. Air Force)

A Security Forces unit in California now has a new sentry: a small quadcopter that will conduct perimeter security for its 6,000-plus acre facility.

The 60th Security Forces Squadron at Travis Air Force Base received its first drone in December, made by Easy Aerial, that will provide an extra awareness for base security to analyze and relay a potential threat to airmen before they head out to the scene, according to a recent release.

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The drone is signaled by a security trigger, such as "a fence alarm, fire alarm or other distress call," the release said. Like a Roomba vacuum cleaner -- which can leave its docking station, conduct a cleaning sweep and then return to its home port without human interaction -- the Easy Aerial drone can be programmed to deploy automatically, scour the area, and head back to recharge before its next flight, officials said.

The small unmanned aircraft system, or sUAS, "has the capability to assist civil engineering for fire response, maintenance for tail inspections ... and that is just the beginning," Master Sgt. Joshua Hicks, 60th Security Forces instructor for the program, said in the release. "The impact this program is going to have on the Air Force will be seen in many different capacities."

The work was awarded to the Brooklyn, New York-based company through a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. According to its website, Easy Aerial has been working on the project since 2018.

Last month, the Air Force announced that Security Forces units at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, will be the first to operate "robot dogs" to patrol alongside airmen. Like the quadcopters, the semi-autonomous droids -- developed by Ghost Robotics -- will be used for extra security while guarding the Florida Panhandle base.

The growing initiatives are part of the military's efforts to better safeguard bases amid rising threats from hostile small drones designed to disrupt operations or spy on aircraft.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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