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Okay, you’re the IC, what do you do? Is a drone eye in the sky coming to a fireground near you?

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Previous coverage of drones at emergency scenes 

Read about safety & privacy issues & drones: here, here, here, here & here (this article has the best summary of the rules & issues)

This is an interesting video from camerajumper1 of one of those radio controlled tiny helicopters mounted with a camera doing a fly by at a recent strip mall fire in Los Angeles County, California.

People like Patrick Sherman and his partners of Roswell Flight Test Crew (click here for all of their videos) are among those pushing this technology as a tool for public safety. Most of us can imagine the very positive uses of an eye in the sky like this.  Just check out the video below where the Roswell folks attach a FLIR to the little chopper for a view of a wildland burn.

But what about the unannounced visitor over your fire scene? I have no idea if the IC at the strip mall fire knew there would be a flyover, but how would you react if you saw one with no warning? Would you see it as a threat? If it were a mass casualty incident or a crime scene would that impact your view of this and how you would handle the intrusion from above? Would it be any different than a TV news chopper flying at a much higher altitude?

I don’t have the answers to these questions and I am not sure anyone does at this point. But I can tell you this. If I was still in the TV news business I would be pushing my bosses to buy one. I can see many uses and not just for a breaking news event.

And, if I was a fire chief, I would be looking closely how I could use this technology as a tool in my arsenal.


Comments - Add Yours

  • Legeros

    Dave, are drones on the radar of the news agencies, these days? Seems like they’d be salivating… except for the cost. Probably quite expensive.

    Great question, though. Would imagine an IC and particular LEO presence would be immediately alarmed by an approaching drone. Need a new homeland warning color for that.

  • OldSutterOne

    The City of Berkley CA has essentially outlawed drones as an constituionally unforgiveable invasion of privacy. The Alemeda Sheriff must ask for permission to overfly the City if they ever aquire such technology. I may be embellishing this a little, but not much!

  • Tree

    New item in the job description for the chief’s aide – must be able to fly drone…

  • ltfd seattle

    If you go to any major university, you can see “drones” (camera equipped) flying around occasionally- the product of tech savy, inquisitive students who want to something interesting with their tinkering time.

    Anything useful technology that civilians, or the military, are already playing with will eventually make it into the Fire Service.

  • Fire21

    I can see this being SO useful in wildland situations. So much on a scene is left to guessing what the fire is doing. The FLIR would save lives every year. Crew assignments could be much better calculated.

    City use…yes, I can see the privacy aspect. But at the same time, as terrorism and criminal activities increase, I can see LEO’s side really well. And for fire use, wow…so many possibilities!

  • slackjawedyokel

    a handful of small gravel tossed into the stream of a deck gun might work

  • RJ (in florida)

    the buffs (via hobby shops) are probibly gonna get these and make a bundle off them espically on cop stuff because there is no law preventing them…(yet)

    like this one, you set up across the street and “flying” over a scene is not a crime (the tv folks will see to that)
    i also think they are going to be a good fireground tool

  • Carl

    Howdy yall, As a FF/EMT/drone builder, I cannot wait for the FAA to solidify their regulations on drone use for commercial purposes. The FAA has been ordered to come up with regulations by 2015.

    Currently you cannot use a drone for commercial use, and the permit process for public safety use is…. complicated to say the least.

    These multi copter drones are quite small and depending on the builder and are only capable of about 15 minutes of flight. Their usable payload is about 1KG and an all up flying weight is anywhere between 1-4Kg depending on motors and battery technology.

    Cost is dependent on capabilities, The Parrot AR runs about $300 up to $40K for a Draganflyer w/TIC.

    If your interested in tinkering yourself I suggest the founder is Chris Anderson the former editor of Wired magazine and the people are really helpful with building and flying “drones” They also make one of the best and most affordable autopilot.

  • ukfbbuff

    I agree, in the Wildland arena, having a drone over fly an area
    during the Initial Attack phase can help direct resources to those
    parts of the fire that are “Making a Run” in thick vegetation or heading towards structure and so on.

    For decades Cal Fire has used U-2 Flights over major fires to help in mapping them. This is just another tool that can be used only more locally.

    Next up a Model airplane drone launcher on a BC’s Pickup truck for those in the Schedule B Program.

  • FOBS

    That’s what the Air Attack Group Supervisor is for ukfbuff.

    Haven’t you seen the OV10 Broncos flying overhead? Airtac is dispatched along with the first alarm assignment, often beating equipment to the scene.

    Drones might be good for night observation, though daylight ops would just add more to the traffic over the fire.

    Cal Fire probably won’t ever see drones come in service due to cost etc.

    U2 aircraft are used on major fires only, again cost being a factor.

  • firefighthero
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