HATTIESBURG, MS - As the stunning flips and tricks of the 2018 Winter Olympics played out from South Korea over the past couple of weeks, we've watched and cheered on Team U.S.A. to bring home the gold.
What you might not know is the University of Southern Mississippi had a hand in the huge strides to keep the event safe and secure for athletes and spectators on the other side of the world. The National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security, or NCS4, played a role in training security for the Winter Olympics.
"As time moves on and we look at technology on a positive side, there are some great opportunities coming down the road," said Lou Marciani, Director of NCS4.
The NCS4 based out of Southern Miss is the nation's only research center committed to studying and practicing sports safety and security.
"If you were to tell me I would be able to control something that flies, whether it be from my iPhone, I would look at you like you have a third eye," said Dan DeMott, USM's Technology Manager.
"We're seeing some great opportunities, particularly in the sports like marathon, drones have played a key role in saving lives," Marciani said.
The expertise of the team at NCS4 to solve problems using technology in a world with emerging security needs is recognized all over, even in South Korea, where athletes are sliding down slopes to their victories.
"About seven years ago when South Korea earned the candidacy for the Olympics, the committee reached out to NCS4 to ask if we could have Dr. Yung Lee come for a year to study with us," Marciani said.
A representative took back training from right here to help train some of the 60,000 security forces deployed to protect athletes and onlookers in Pyeongchang.
"A lot of good things come about being able to secure an area or venue within a national event of significance to get another set of eyes to expand that security area to identify threats before they even approach," DeMott said.
"We know we had something to do with the curriculum," Marciani said. "Some of the technology was tested here. We have a relationship going into the event and played a role to make that event safe."
While watching the figure skaters gracefully spin on ice or the hockey players bump heads to score, the drone-catching-drones, face recognition scanners and sensor systems are in place in case of the unexpected.
"To see the fruits of our efforts with him, it was a wonderful experience to have him here and educate him on the way we manage safety and security in the U.S. as well," Marciani said.
In a future filled with technology, NCS4 out of Southern Miss is ahead of the game.
"To be able to use another UAS [unmanned aircraft system] to catch another UAS that's targeted to create havoc on a situation such as the Olympics is outstanding," DeMott said.
"We have a little bit to do with his expertise bringing it back to South Korea," Marciani said. "We are here to be the flying eagle of the industry."
Southern Miss has the only MBA in the country with an emphasis on sports security. The department is becoming so well respected, they are getting demands from all over the world to assist with the security of entertainment events and festivals.