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AS A STARTING POINT, ORGANIZA-


TIONS CAN AUDIT, AS MUCH AS POSSI- BLE, HOW TOP AIR UNITS LIKE THOSE OF THE LOS ANGELES COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT, NEW YORK POLICE DEPARTMENT, DEA, FBI AND LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPARTMENT RUN THEIR OPERATIONS.


run their operations. Other options include engaging with aviation consultancies that specialize in building and operating aerial surveillance assets, meeting with vendors and reviewing available case studies and media coverage related to aerial surveillance operations. Similarly crucial to developing a robust capability lies in clearly identifying the missions the air unit is tasked with fulfilling. With budget an ever-present factor, having a checklist of must-haves, should-haves and would-be-nice-to-haves can help agencies ensure they don’t overbuy in non-critical areas while skimp- ing on core functionality.


For instance, a big city


police department that regularly faces fluid tactical scenarios will generally have a greater need for robust, live microwave-downlink capabilities than a narcotics taskforce dedicated to finding large-scale marijuana grows hidden in national parks and forests. Simultaneous to implementing a new aerial sur- veillance system or upgrading an existing capability, comes the task of creating a comprehensive manage- ment plan and support infrastructure to operate and maintain it. This is the aforementioned “backend” of the operation, responsible for keeping the entire sys- tem running, minimizing downtime and ensuring operational continuity. Shortchange this part of the equation only at extreme risk – even the most advanced system becomes worthless if it’s grounded during a time of need. For this reason, it is vital to have a ded- icated expert or team who understands the system in its entirety and can respond 24/7 to any technological problems that arise.


In addition to technical expertise, a comprehen- sive and ongoing training program is essential to maintaining operational fitness. Whether adminis- tered in-house or by outside experts, a training pro- gram prevents air crews’ proficiencies from slipping, especially when it comes to system capabilities that are used only infrequently, but can be vitally important at a moment’s notice during a crisis situation. Similarly, ongoing training prevents normal staff attrition from taking a toll, as new crew members are quickly brought


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