As drones continue to prove their worth saving lives, public-safety agencies have sparked a burning interest in UAV technology in firefighting.
A recent propane-tanker explosion in Callaway, Minn. provided a perfect example how drones can enhance firefighting ops.
On March 25, a propane tank caught fire after a train derailment – resulting in a 10-hour burn punctuated by a brief by string explosion. Callaway firefighters used a drone to evaluate the scene and direct a hose battalion to the most vital locations, preventing the blaze from careening out of control. The UAV especially proved helpful in identifying hot spots not accessible to ground evaluation due to blockage by wrecked train cars.
“This is a perfect use for [drones],” said U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar in a post-fire meeting last week in which she praised the department’s decisive action. “It would seem [allowing drones during] emergency situations would be a no-brainer,” she added, promising to advocate for increased drone use for emergency services.
Like Callaway, firefighting officials in Menlo Park, Calif. say drones could help their department be “smarter” when it comes to emergency response.
Menlo Park Fire Protection District Harold Schapelhouman witnessed a firsthand demonstration of drone deployment after a civilian drone videographer filmed a fire that destroyed 13 acres of grassland near Facebook’s HQ last month. Emergency officials allowed the drone operator to fly the quadcopter over the fire to evaluate the blaze. Menlo Park plans to train officers to use drones and Go-Pro cameras and is seeking FAA approval.
“I don’t know how many times we get a call that an accident is on one side of the bridge, and it ends up being on the other side,” Schapelhouman told the Mercury News. “If we put a drone in service, we would immediately be able to … determine if we need to ramp up or ramp down our responses,” he added. “That ability will make us smarter and more efficient than we are today.”
Jason is a longstanding contributor to DroneLife with an avid interest in all things tech. He focuses on anti-drone technologies and the public safety sector; police, fire, and search and rescue.
Beginning his career as a journalist in 1996, Jason has since written and edited thousands of engaging news articles, blog posts, press releases and online content.
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