The University of Notre Dame's campus, renowned for its tradition and innovation, is witnessing a technological revolution in safety operations. As the final home football game of the season approaches, there's a new development in the sky that's catching everyone's attention – DJI drones.
A Game Changer in Traffic Monitoring
This season, the Notre Dame Police Department (NDPD) has successfully incorporated DJI drones to oversee game-day traffic, a significant enhancement to its comprehensive safety measures. Deputy Chief Keith Kopinski explains, “The addition of drones for football games has been very beneficial. They provide rapid deployment and crucial information for traffic management.”
Previously, the NDPD relied on helicopters for this task, but now they reserve them for post-game traffic, using DJI drones as an additional resource. The unique advantage of drones lies in their ability to access hard-to-reach areas, ensuring safety both on the ground and in the air.
Austin Galletti, NDPD's lead drone pilot, elaborates, “Drones allow us to check areas that are difficult to see or access so that we can maintain a safe campus from the ground and air.”
Training and Technology
Galletti, who is part of the closed-circuit TV unit and has been with the department for seven years, underwent extensive training to obtain his FAA license and drone pilot certification. For night games, the operation involves anti-collision lights and thermal cameras, with live video feeds being streamed directly to the stadium command center for real-time analysis by police and fire administrators.
Benchmarking and Collaboration
The implementation of DJI drones at Notre Dame wasn't a sudden decision. As Deputy Chief Kopinski mentions, “We began researching drones as a public safety tool some time ago.” The research included learning from other universities with established drone programs, particularly those in the Big Ten and ACC conferences. Indiana University played a pivotal role in guiding Notre Dame toward a knowledgeable drone provider that understood the specific needs of public safety.
A Collaborative Effort
The university's Facilities Design and Operations, which has been utilizing DJI drones for various campus projects, also played a crucial role in this initiative. Tony Polotto, Senior Director of Construction and Quality Assurance, provided invaluable guidance.
Broadening the Scope
As of this fall, Notre Dame's Campus Safety and University Operations boast four drones and nine certified operators between the NDPD and the Notre Dame Fire Department. Beyond traffic monitoring, these drones, like the DJI Matrice M30T equipped with thermal imaging, a speaker, and a Spotlight, are versatile tools for Search and Rescue, crime scene analysis, and threat assessments. They're also instrumental in identifying hot spots during fires and assisting in emergency management during severe weather events.
As Deputy Chief Kopinski asserts, “The drones have many uses, but assisting in the safety of our community is the key function.”
This initiative, as originally reported by ND Works, marks a significant step forward in enhancing campus safety, proving once again that Notre Dame is at the forefront of innovation and community care.
Photos courtesy of Matt Cashore / University of Notre Dame
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