As Minnesota lawmakers discuss limiting law enforcement’s use of unmanned aircraft, the Andover fire chief made plans to use his personal drone when the next house fire or grass fire ignites.
He got his chance this past weekend as a grass fire threatened homes in an Otsego neighborhood.
Andover Fire Chief Jerry Streich bought his own DJI Phantom unmanned aircraft six months ago. It was used March 28 to capture Otsego grass fires that burned more than 16 acres of land.
Jerry Streich bought a DJI Phantom multicopter drone about six months ago for nearly $2,000. He had it at the Andover fire station for more than a month and kept it close by and fully charged. He has plans to show it to other fire chiefs to drum up support for the use of drones by fire departments.
“You look at the Carlos Avery fire a few years ago. We’re trying to figure out what’s really going to be involved, what’s the threat. With this (drone), you just go up in the air and see it in a matter of minutes.”
Streich does not know of any other Twin Cities metro fire departments that have a drone. He said many have been talking about it yet are hesitant to spend money on a tool that state legislators may restrict because of privacy concerns.
“You certainly have to have your limits. I wouldn’t want a drone flying around my neighborhood watching me all day,” Streich said. “But at the same rate, if I’m using it for public safety, for the protection of property and life, it may fly over your house. There’s a lot of discussion to be had and I certainly don’t want to be excluded from those discussions.”
Elk River Fire Chief John Cunningham said he can see how use of drones could be extremely helpful. In the case of the Evans Meadows apartment fire, it wasn’t until he had gotten footage from a helicopter that he knew the extent of damage being done by that fire. There would be other applications, too, he said, including the recent flurry of grass fires.
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