A hazardous materials incident at an abandoned hospital in Falfurrias earlier this month sent emergency crews in Edinburg and Pharr rushing to contain the situation. Behind the two HAZMAT teams was the Pharr Technical Response Unit, with a “Phantom” aerial drone that helped coordinate the 20-plus firefighters and emergency responders from Hidalgo and Brooks counties.
Using its onboard camera, the drone captured live video and photos from above the scene and broadcasted the images on a big screen mounted to the side of the TRU’s refurbished ambulance, transformed to a command and control center.
The real-time imagery allowed firefighters to map the area and quickly set up a plan of action, said Jason Arms, the city’s innovation and technology director.
“This truck allows us to take technology into the field. It’s equipped with satellite communications, radio communications and computers,” Arms said. “Police, fire and public works can use it – it’s like our own on-wheels geek squad.”
The upgraded truck allows Arms and drone pilot Rick Castro to use technology to assist departments across the Rio Grande Valley with state-of-the-art equipment.
“Never really thought of a HAZMAT, but the project keeps evolving,” Arms said. “We originally got it to survey land but, if we can save someone’s life or prevent them from getting hurt, we will.”
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com