Fourth-grade student Ali Ben Lanes was not short on words in describing his experiences with Corning Police Officer Matt Portillo, and a presentation of the police department's drone to Ben Lanes and his classmates on April 28.
“I feel so happy,” Ben Lanes said. “I'm so excited, this was the best.”
The special presentation of the drone and its abilities was given to Ben Lanes fourth-grade class at Olive View Elementary School.
Operating the drone was police Officer Tyler Knight, as Portillo described the drones capabilities and uses for law enforcement.
The students stood enthralled at what they were seeing, but none more so than Ben Lanes, although he is visually impaired (blind).
Ben Lanes is an ardent self-taught student of the Federal Aviation Administration and all-things-aviation.
Portillo said he had the idea of giving the presentation after a chance meeting with Ben Lanes.
“I had the opportunity to visit with Ali (Ben Lanes) and he instantly touched my heart,” Portillo said. “I learned of his hobby in listening to the FAA frequency on his scanner and his love of airplanes. When I told him about the police department's drone he was thrilled to learn more.”
Not long after, Portillo received a card Ben Lanes had made for him.
“On the card Ali had drawn a picture and wrote 'thank you for keeping the city safe' in braille. I can't tell you how that moved me,” he added.
Portillo contacted Ben Lanes teacher, Darcy Bailey, and the two scheduled a date for the police department to make the presentation.
As students stood in the school's playground and watched the drone make its maneuvers, Portillo talked about its video and picture taking capabilities, thermal imaging, speed, flying distance, auditory abilities, use in search and rescue, and catching “bad guys”.
The only one not able to “see” the drone was Ben Lanes, but that didn't curb his enthusiasm and interest.
“You made my day,” he said to Knight and Portillo. “I am so happy. This was the best day ever, and I really enjoyed what you have done for me and my classmates.”
After the drone display, Portillo presented Ben Lanes with an honorary certificate from the Corning Police Department stating, “By authority of the Chief of Police and the recommendation from the Corning Police Department Drone Team has conferred on Ali Ben Lanes honorary pilot and member of the Corning Police Department Drone Team with all the privileges and responsibilities pertaining to this membership. In witness there of this membership duly signed has been issued and the CPD patch of the Corning Police Department affixed on this twenty-eighth day of April in the year two thousand twenty-one.”
Portillo also presented Ben Lanes with police department patches and pins, making him an honorary police officer.
“No one had better do anything stupid now,” Ben Lanes said upon receiving the honor. “I'm a police officer.”
Ben Lanes attends regular classroom learning with the help of his special aid. He reads and writes in braille, and moves about with the assistance of a white cane.
Although visually impaired, Ben Lanes is seldom deterred in doing what he sets his heart on doing and says he will continue to study aviation and listen to the FAA frequency on his scanner.