John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences

News and information from the UND John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences.

Al Frazier recognized for UAS work (University Letter 09/13/16)

The forefront of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) utilization in law enforcement isn’t based in another country or in states such as California or New York. It’s right here in Grand Forks, led by professors with the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences.

And now one of those professors has been recognized for his efforts and dedication.

Associate Professor of Aviation Al Frazier recently was presented with the 2016  “UAS Award ” by the Airborne Law Enforcement Association (ALEA) for his work with UAS law enforcement applications in regional policing efforts. Frazier received the award at ALEA’s annual conference in Savannah, Ga.

Maintaining his usual humility when discussing the award, Frazier expressed gratitude for and deflected credit to his colleagues in airborne law enforcement.

“I would say I’m humbled and I’m honored by it,” Frazier said, “because to me it’s one thing to be recognized by people who may not know the ins and outs of your profession and what it takes to do something, but to me this was very humbling to have my peers nominate and select me for it, because they knew what it was all about. It meant a lot.”

While in Georgia to accept the award, Frazier took time to teach a three-class on UAS and law enforcement as well as deliver one of the main presentations at the ALEA conference.

Associate Professor of Aviation Al Frazier helps train a local police officer in Grand Forks to integrate unmanned aircraft applications into law enforcement activities.

Another award
Frazier wasn’t done there. He was recently notified that he and his colleagues will be receiving the 2016 International Association of Police (IACP) Excellence in Police Aviation Award. The award, which is sponsored by Bell Helicopter, emphasize initiatives to enhance the general level and safety of operations, accident prevention programs, and the efficiency and effectiveness of airborne law enforcement.

Frazier and his team are expected to accept the award at the IACP’s annual conference in October in San Diego.

Frazier is currently on faculty developmental leave opportunity from UND this year as he completes a UAS Fellowship with ALEA.

“This is an amazing opportunity,” said Elizabeth Bjerke, chair of the aviation department at UND’s Odegard School. “He will be leading a national effort in integrating UAS into the law enforcement environment in a safe and effective manner. He is truly a pioneer and subject matter expert in this line of work.”

Officer and pilot
Frazier has been working in aviation for more than 30 years. Holding a Bachelor in aerospace administration from Middle Tennessee State University and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Southern California, Frazier currently teaches at UND, where he also researches UAS and its uses in the field of law enforcement.

“I saw this position, and I had been teaching at a community college part time, teaching aviation and criminal justice, and I wanted to keep teaching,” Frazier says. “Frankly, I put in a resume here thinking that they’d never hire me because I didn’t have a Ph.D., but they actually called me, saying they wanted to do a telephone interview.”

You might wonder what qualifies Frazier to assist law enforcement agencies across North Dakota while he teaches at UND, the answer is simple: Frazier has been a police officer since completing his undergraduate work in Tennessee.

Paying his way through college as a patrolman in his hometown, Frazier worked the graveyard shift while attending classes. After earning his bachelors degree, Frazier took a job with the Glendale (Calif.) Police Department, where he was a man wearing many hats: tactical-flight officer, a pilot and eventually the officer-in-charge of an air-support unit. He also assisted in training while with the department for 28 years.

Currently, Frazier also serves as a part-time deputy for the Grand Forks County Sherriff’s Office, operating newly purchased airboats, which are used to patrol the Red River, when needed.

Enhancing enforcement
Beginning in 2010, Frazier became part of a research team at UND with the goal of utilizing UAS to assist law enforcement agencies in North Dakota. Six years later, four agencies currently participate in a regional law enforcement program that covers eastern North Dakota. The program assists police officers by observing calls for assistance, processing crime scene information and helping to track down missing people or criminals.

Taking over a third of the work normally reserved for helicopters, UAS performs airborne assistance at a fraction of the cost—and there’s a lot of interest in the law enforcement community, Frazier says.

Frazier admits that the demonization of UAS among members of the community is prevalent, but in an attempt to set the record straight, he says that UAS applications in law enforcement are meant to enhance police operations when necessary—not to replace police officers.

“We don’t do random patrols,” Frazier said. “I think a lot of times people look at drones and go ‘oh they’re just going to be crisscrossing the state,’ we don’t do that, and even if we wanted to crack down on people growing marijuana in their backyard, we don’t have the manpower for that.”

Frazier also stressed that no covert operations or military applications are conducted by UAS in North Dakota, nor are the systems armed in any way.