In Austin, last month, the City Council gave the OK for firefighters and search-and-rescue agencies to launch such drones.
“Since so much of Austin was underwater in the 2015 Memorial weekend floods, officials were looking at how drones could assist first responders,” reports KXAN.
Under an agreement with the University of Texas Cockrell School of Engineering, the city will commission a feasibility study as well as public demonstrations by engineering students to evaluate how effective drones may be in emergency situations. The university will fund the study in exchange for inclusion in the city’s proposed drone training program.
Austin had already dipped its municipal toes in the drone pool last year after a research team at the University of Texas teamed up with the city’s Rescue Robotics team. Austin became the first American municipality to garner federal authorization to use drones for search and rescue.
The team is developing drone designs based on bird behavior to locate disaster victims or help firefighters discover the most effective way to battle a blaze.
The Spokane Fire Department hopes that a city council vote on May 9 will allow the department to deploy drones for hazardous-materials missions — an effort that will keep firefighters safe from deadly chemicals. Department officials want to spend between $8,000 to $20,000 to purchase UAVs and train their employees. If the council approves drone use at next week’s meeting, the department will set a six-month timeline to launch the new program.
Austin and Spokane join the ranks of many other American firefighting agencies lining up to send out drones to save lives.
For example, the Footville Volunteer Fire Department in Wisconsin is gearing up for a new drone program – pending federal approval – using a donated Yuneec Q500 Plus quadcopter. Officials are optimistic the UAV will make a difference in the 800-population town. The FFD hopes to use the drone to spot wildfires before they spread as well as use it to help locate missing persons, such as dementia patients who may wander off.
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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