Alissa Walker, a journalist at Gizmodo, wrote an article “Welcome to the Fake City Where Homeland Security Tests Its Drones,” where she asks the question “Does Homeland Security have a sense of humor?” Homeland Security’s Robotic Aircraft for Public Safety (RAPS) program apparently does. Not only do they have a sense of humor, apparently they are fan of console games as well, specifically Grand Theft Auto.
Where does Homeland Security test the drones it purchases from Lockheed Martin, AeroVironment, and Aurora? In a place they call Liberty City, inspired by Urban City in “Grand Theft Auto.”
Liberty City is in Fort Sill, an Army training center in Oklahoma, where artificial structures have served as a high tech testing ground since 2012. The faux city is used for evaluating “disaster response scenarios, law enforcement patrols, search and rescue, and potentially monitoring large public events.”
Evaluations for the RAPS program leverage Liberty City’s mix of buildings and storage containers to test each drone’s ability to distinguish bystanders from assailants, track fleeing suspects and scan urban scenes for items of interest.
Tests at Liberty City thus simulate active shooter, hostage, or bomb threat situations where a SWAT team or other specialized squad requires accurate, real-time intelligence. Scenarios at other sites evaluate drone systems’ abilities to spot people in wooded terrain, zero-in on the source of a fire, or detect radiation.