South Florida State College will hold a one-day educational workshop on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

As the official and private use of UAVs spreads, SFSC aims to educate law enforcement and the public on how first responders can harness this emerging technology to save lives. At the same time, UAVs, when used by criminals or terrorists, have the potential to cause great harm, a danger to which law enforcement agencies must be alert.

The workshop is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 25, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., on SFSC’s Highlands Campus in Avon Park. There is no charge to attend. (The precise location will be announced as the event draws nearer and the college gauges the expected turnout.)

“We plan to cover the good, the bad, and the ugly of UAVs,” said Curtis Ivy, director of criminal justice programs at SFSC’s public service academy. “Rapidly growing UAV use by public agencies and by criminals, along with media attention, spurred us to put on this workshop.”

UAVs, popularly but erroneously referred to as drones, are remotely-piloted aerial vehicles. A UAV can travel from its launch point and hover over a distant location, capturing video of a far-off crash site, delivering life-saving equipment to a stranded hiker, or an explosive device to crowded stadium.

While the workshop will mainly educate law enforcement, the public is invited to attend.

Ivy said law enforcement personnel and other first responders will learn about options for deploying UAVs in a broad array of situations. From lifeguards using UAVs to get a life vest to a swimmer caught up in a riptide, to searching for a missing child, to delivering a critical medical device to a remote location, Ivy said public agencies can put UAVs to use in ways that don’t involve direct enforcement of the law.

At the same time, Ivy said law enforcement agencies must be alert to the potential for criminals to adopt this technology. He cited a recent instance in which illegal drugs were smuggled into a prison by a UAV operated from a pickup truck parked near the facility. The UAV easily flew over the fence, dropped a load of drugs in the prison yard, and returned to its operator.

Two experienced UAV operators will lead the workshop. Sgt. Joe Marble, of the Hardee County Sheriff’s Office, will focus on what first responders need to know about UAV technology and use. John Byrd, professor of electronics at SFSC, will join Marble to showcase the potential deployment of UAVs with a live demonstration.

To reserve a seat for the workshop, or for more information, call SFSC’s Criminal Justice academy at 863-784-7280 or email publicservice@southflorida.edu.