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California to get own emergency ‘Drone Fleet’

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Emergency Drone
Way of the future?

New advances in emergency UAV technology see Menlo Park adopting fleet of fire-fighting drones.

With a fleet of drones in his hands in the next few years, Menlo Park fire chief Harold Schapelhouman is excited about the potential uses for emergency workers. The drones are expected to consist of a number of “large frame” drones, including a selection of smaller, more handheld drones.

Emergency Fire Drone
Looking something like this? [TUAVD]
Scary scenarios such as sending firefighters into burnt out buildings, or assessing hazardous spills usually presents a risk to emergency workers. The new fleet however, could see drones guiding workers with lights, or assessing the scope of the hazard without setting a foot in the dangerous area.

“This is an asset that gives us INCREDIBLE new capabilities.”

Unlike other drones being used by police forces in Australia however, Schapelhouman says the drones will not be used to gather video surveillance. The topic is a touchy one, however it seems the advantages of being able to share resources quickly with other departments is more cause for relief than concern.

NYPD Surveillance Drone
Schapelhouman says the drones will not conduct video surveillance[RICK BOWMER/AP]
While it might take three to five years before the full dimensions of the drone fleet are recognized, the Fire Protection District could see its first cohort arriving by the end of the year. By that time, there possibility of drones with heavier load capabilities and fire-fighting capabilities may have been improved drastically. For now though, Harold is notably excited. “Essentially, I gain an air force, if you will, at a price point and an operational level with minimal effort that I never had before.

Emergency Drone
Drone’s laying down fire retardant

Using drones in firefighting situations has not always been advantageous to firefighters; this video shows a member of the public interfering with a house fire by flying his drone too close, eventually being shot down by the seemingly frustrated EM workers.

Other potential uses for drone use by fire departments:

  • Surveying large areas of land for forest fires
  • Identifying overgrowth and/or fire-risk areas
  • Identifying potential hazards to fire fighters
  • Observing firebugs and suspicious origins of fire
  • Assisting firefighters in finding trapped persons

See Also

Drones used by fire investigation officials