A North Carolina EMS agency lost a $26,000 drone last week in a maritime crash during a training exercise.
According to Port City Daily, a DJI Matrice 210 belonging to Pender EMS and Fire crashed into the ocean almost a mile offshore last week during a training exercise. Officials say the drone, equipped with a $13,000 thermal-imaging camera EMS and Fire exhausted its battery after battling unexpected high winds.
The exercise also included the U.S. Coast Guard, New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office, Pender County Sheriff’s Office, Wilmington Police Department, and Wrightsville Beach Fire and Police and simulated a “stranded swimmer” emergency neat the south end of Wrightsville Beach.
Pender EMS and Fire Chief Woody Sullivan told the media the battery normally provides a maximum 24-minute flight. However, 15-mph winds pushed the drone out to sea as it attempted to return to base.
“The bird went down in 14 minutes,” Sullivan said.
The report continues:
“Rather than attempting to land the drone on one of the boats participating in the exercise, Sullivan said the safer option was to ditch the high-tech device into the ocean. There will be an internal investigation into the incident, according to Sullivan, one that he expects to reveal certain changes to protocol when navigating over open waters during high winds.”
“We’re going to have to adapt our protocols to that. And that’s why we’re going to do the internal investigation,” Sullivan said. “The return home will be much sooner, we will have less flight time over the water, and we’re going to have to change out batteries much quicker.”
On Friday, officers reviewed the drone’s electronic flight log. “Once [the pilot] identified there was no way to get back they just identified a place to safely ditch it in the water,” Deputy Chief Scott Sills said in an interview with Port City Daily. “At 22 feet [elevation], we knew the battery was dying, and we knew we were not going to make it home. So, at that point, under risk management, what is our last option?”
“After 642 flights, that’s not bad. And a lot of these missions are not flown in the most ideal conditions either,” Sullivan said of the two-year tenure of his department’s drone program which includes five drones.
Sills added the department would consult two external drone pilots to determine improved future protocols.
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.
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