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Video: Make sure you look sharp as command does a fly-by. Using drones on the fireground.

I used to believe that being a tillerman was the best job in the fire service. My opinion may have changed after watching the video above. I now want to be the guy who operates the drone.

This video was taken at a live burn by the Longview Fire Department in Washington last Saturday. Three tiny quadcopters from the firm Roswell Flight Test Crew out of Portland, Oregon were on the scene. Here's the company's own blog with a posting on the burn and other videos of the copters in use.

More from an article by Barbara LaBoe at The Daily News:

The quadcopters — square machines about the size of a laptop computer with a helicopter rotor and landing gear on each corner — are part hobby and part business for Portlanders Patrick Sherman and Brian Zvaigzne. Ideally, they hope to someday see the machines used by firefighters and law enforcement.

Saturday, for example, the quadcopters were able to fly into the smoke above the burning building and provide real-time video images of the fire. A public relations officer for law enforcement, Sherman also sees a number of uses for police.

Comments - Add Yours

  • Twizzlestick McButterscotch

    I believe Peter Griffin said it best…"Freakin Sweet…"

  • Anonymous

    The video seemed more like an advertisement.

    • dave statter

      I am sure it is.


  • Pa FF

    Dave, contact all your Press buddies, have them get one of these and they can operate from a block away and never have their rights violated again. But I could never promise that a nozzleman with good aim would wind up violating something with a straight stream anti aircraft line. LOL—Really I think this would be great for the press to use!!!

    • dave statter

      Great idea. I am ordering one now.

      • mark

        I thought you weren't a reporter anymore?
        Just some schmuck with a blog?
        I can see it already, cops will be shooting these things out of the air left and right with their Remingtons.
        I wonder what kind of temps these things can withstand. They could be really useful for wildland fires depending on their range.

        • dave statter


          I think that’s what I going to rename this blog. Love it and just bought the domain.

          And I didn’t know you spoke Yiddish.


  • Dickey

    Now ain't that some schit!!

  • fedup

    Thats all our safety officer needs…..another way to hem guys up on the fireground……

    • Legeros

      Fedup, so the benefits for fireground intelligence to incident commanders are outweighed by the impact on line personnel, regarding their conduct with tactics, policies, procedures, etc.?
      Makes me think of someone saying "we don't want the bigger chiefs to show, they might see something and say something." True, they might express criticism in the moment or after the fact. But they might help the situation, through advice or their experience.
      This technology probably thrills and scares folks in equal numbers!

    • Crowbar

      Fedup, if your afraid to have someone watching you work, you're probably doing it wrong.

  • Mick Mayers

    Leave it to someone to see a tremendous advance in technology as a way to “hem us up on the fireground”. I’m hoping that was posted tongue-in-cheek. I was just talking to firefighters yesterday about the amazing changes in our industry that could help get them home to their families in one piece, like drone video, breadcrumb GPS, and a few others. I’m glad to see I’m not crazy.

    How about the ability to make decisions more effectively by having real-time 360 of your scene, knowing when and where to place resources much easier, or knowing when to pull people out when things are going badly.

    What a great idea. Thanks for bringing us the news, Dave.

  • fedup

    Yes this is a tremendous advance in technology….its going to completely change the way we fight fires!! Im sure our LODD will drop in half the year this becomes available.  In most urban environments there are at least 2-3 news helicopters and a police patrol helicopter over the scene of fires.  Hmm…communication btwn the chief and available resources.  A media stream from these cameras to the cheif?  Is it really necessary?  The FDNY sends an airborne cheif on greater alarms.  Are these cheifs really making an impact on operations?  How about using the resources you already have on scene? 360 size up?, How bout a cheifs aid in the rear? An experienced roof man reporting conditions?  You can get an AERIAL view from and AERIAL LADDER!!  Letting the men work, and listening to the reports being given are the best intellegence an IC can have.  Your crews are recieveing and interpreting information, the human brain is triaging it and sending it up to the IC.  It is an effective system.          As much as you man not understand my comment there are plenty of ppl reading this blog that had the same initial though I had.  In todays day and age with budget cuts and the reactive nature of the firedepartments.  Chief officers are being ordered to limit insurance risk and to stop injuries.  Proper training and an aggressive safety policy are important aspects of a firedepartment.  But the reality is that we do not operate in a sterile industrial setting.  We cannot completely eliminate risk, we are tasked with saving lives and we sometimes have to make a calculated decision to forgo certain safety criteria.  Not every ladder is going to be butted, not every chin strap is going to be buckled outside the building, sometimes the saw guard has to be removed on a thick roof and mabey a few members are going to wear better thicker "non approved " hoods.  These are things that happen everyday on firegrounds.  Be happy that you dont have to deal with promotion seeking officers that have nothing better to do but call these fireground steps out and place people on suspension and to deduct money from their pay.  Lets put our energies to working on proven reliable systems.  Lets concentrate on training. Something that alot of the videos on this website show are severly lacking in alot of departments
    This technology could be beneficial to the fire service.  Im sure CAFS and FIT5 fire grenades are wonderful things.  But in the FD I work for they are expensive toys that are not feasible for deployment in our situation.  Not to mention that the biggest benefit they give to live safety is that they elmiminate the need for full staffing!! If you dont need firefighters then your not going to have firefighter deaths!

    • Amazed

      Apparently you don't see this as a way to help improve the training & risk reduction you speak of.   This drone can go places a person may not be able to do safely.. such as monitoring an unstable wall perhaps…  Or as a way to reduce radio traffic on an already busy fireground by letting the operator look at a specific area without having to pull someone else.  After everything is said & done, you can go back & learn from the video. Most I know want to learn what they can to a) improve their own skills, and b) by continuing to improve, increase their chances of going home at the end of their shift..  When peoples first instinct is 'great – another way to get us in trouble', it tends to appear that that person must be doing something against policy for someone to bitch about.

    • Crowbar

      If you trace fedup's ancestry back far enough you'll find some who opposed the wheel.

  • Steve the Gnome Handler

    Great. First it was paramedic units when "Emergency" hit the air, then Quints, then super heavy squads, then haz mat units, then monster medics, then mass casualty units, then command units. The fire service has more "fads" than a teenage girl with her mothers credit cards! Althought this one looks pretty awesome. I bet some tv news directors are looking at these too for news coverage!

  • Sharppointy1

     The Provo Fire Department (Utah) used a similar flying camera when the Provo Tabernacle burned down this past winter.  It provided seriously cool photos of the interior of the structure long before the fire was out, safely allowing the PFD to see what was happening inside.
    I think this is a cool new gadget and would love for a professional fire videographer to have one and show us what's going on where FFs can't go.

  • Bill Carey

    The concept is interesting and not too remote from some departments. The FDNY routinely assigns a battaltion chief to board a helicopter and operate as the AirRecon sector on multiple alarm fires. Other departments also employ aviation for observation. Unfortunately for some the development of an SOP for use will take twice the time as it did to develop the technology itself. Hem firefighters in or be an advantage to the IC, I'll say this; any department that even thinks of buying one of these and still doesn't have free weights and a treadmill in every firehouse has their priorities skewed.
    Bill Carey

    • Amazed

      And how much do you think it costs to send one of those BC's  up in a helicopter though?  As everyone keeps talking about budget cuts, insurance etc, don't you think this is a much better use of taxpayer money with less risk? Not to mention this thing can get closer to a specific area that a helicopter can't, and it's also another means of documenting something with a video record should someone decide to say something wasn't done the way they felt it should have been done. Besides, if a drone crashes, you're out some metal & plastic.  If  a helicopter crashes, you're out the helicopter, chief, pilot & whoever may be unlucky on the ground.

  • Bill Carey

    I'll also add that for the price of the drone you might be able to get another ground ladder or two, to raise to the roof.

    Bill Carey

  • Anonymous

    Now the bad side - 
    Multiple levels of Chiefs giving help directly from their desks as they view the video on their computer…
    Target fixation – Command focusing only on what it sees and making decisions solely based on that, rather than relying on reports from officers actually inside the fire building…
    All things that the military struggled with in the middle east when UAVs were introduced.

  • Fire 21

    Now Fairfax can get rid of all those take home vehicles. Just watch from the PC at home.

  • Robert Kramer

    I guess its all good till you fly through a thermal column. 
    Outside of that, other than being neat, what is this going to do to help the IC?  I would rather have the guy playing video games available to help do the work of putting the fire out.
    The IC should be able to do his job with good status reports from his companies.  If I were the IC, I don't need to see you cutting a hole, for example.  I just need to know who is doing it and when it is completed so I can give you another assignment.
    On another note, WTF are they doing with lines on the roof?  That is what happens when people think that gadgets and technology is better than firefighting.  Good firefighters need a few things to do their job well:
    water, basic tools, determination, and balls.  They can be kept safe by good firefighting IC's who base their decisions on previous experience and reports from their officers.  Not book smart idiots relying on a guy flying a helicopter.

    • Lt. Lemon

      I had the same thought in regard to the line on the roof…

  • woody

    i want one!!

  • Anonymous

    add to the cost of this thing the price of another safety vest or two with the proper signage imprinted on the back

    • CHAOS

      But, in the pattern of vests marked "Command", "Water Supply", and "Safety", imagine the guy who gets to stroll around wearing a vest marked "Drone".


    Might be a good excuse to hire a Chief’s Aide to fly the bird and make recommendations to the Chief. Once they crash the copter the can keep the “old fashioned” aide and everyone on the fireground will be safer!

  • tom g

    were can i buy one! best thing i ever seen an it works! fire a pd can really use this in the real world an not just as a toy.