As the armed suspect stood atop a seven-story building in South Fairbanks on Friday afternoon, a handful of people huddled around a nearby video screen and calmly discussed the best way to deal with the gun-toting fugitive.
After peering at an aerial view of the building for a few minutes, one of the men gave a quick radio summary of the situation to the law enforcement officials inside.
“Come through the door, make a buttonhook to your right,” he said. “When you’re ready, he’s right there.”
With that, a flash grenade was tossed onto the roof, sending a blast echoing through the area. With a shudder from the crowd below, the “suspect” —
actually a participant in a complex training exercise — was apprehended.
The focus of the simulation was the Aeryon Scout, a diminutive unmanned aircraft that floated overhead throughout the episode. Equipped with cameras and sensors, it recorded the suspect’s movements and actions as responders got into position at the Fairbanks Regional Fire Training Center.
The exercise was an unusually detailed look at the possible public safety uses for unmanned aircraft, commonly known as drones. The University of Alaska Fairbanks oversees the Pan-Pacific Unmanned Aircraft Test Range Complex, a relationship that is providing new opportunities in Fairbanks to explore the potential for the technology.