Five Ways Drones Are Changing Fire And Rescue Operations

by coptrz on June 23, 2016

Firefighting is, of course, a very dangerous job – but it can be made much safer and simpler with the use of a drone. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) are being used by fire crews across the world to help identify hotspots of blazes, navigate difficult situations, and even in alternative rescue operations.

The benefits of a UAV seriously outweigh any capital investment: saving lives becomes easier with a bird’s eye view of a situation. Firefighters are less likely to unnecessarily enter dangerous situations too, as a drone can be sent in ahead.

Let’s look at five – of the many – ways a drone will help fire and rescue teams the world over…

Identify Hotspots

Thermal imaging cameras attached to drones are ideal for making action plans when it comes to tackling a blaze. The drone can fly within just a few meters of a fire, and highly precise thermal imaging allows ground teams to analyse the hottest areas and places of potential difficulty.

Check Structural Integrity

Of course, where there’s fire, there’s risk of building collapse. One of the biggest dangers to firefighters is not the blaze, but the consequences of it – namely the changes to structural integrity. Fire and smoke make it very difficult to see potential problems with the naked eye – but a drone equipped with the right imaging systems can spot even minute cracks in crucial beams.

Drones are often thought of as ‘outside only’ equipment – but a skilled pilot with the right drone won’t need to rely on GPS. This means an indoor survey can be made either on floors of a building on which the fire has yet to reach (to establish overall integrity and safety), or post-incident before sending in scene investigators.

<<< Choose the best emergency service drone with our guide >>>

Incident Response And Rescue Coordination

For large incidents it can be tricky to see what’s happened and where the easiest – and safest – access points are for fire crews. Whether in a highly populated urban area or for a large road traffic accident, fast planning is essential to be able to prevent further spread of fire and to deploy rescuers.

An eye-in-the-sky enables crews to see an overview of the scene with ease, so they can plan their routes and approach from a safe area. Potential problems – such as fuel spills near engine fires – can be identified immediately whereas they are often spotted last-minute by ground teams once in the fray.

During a large-scale disaster, such as after an earthquake, drones are an invaluable piece of kit. Drones with thermal imaging cameras can help spot people trapped under rubble in very short spaces of time, without the need for teams to climb over dangerous areas on a field search. Instead, they can go directly to the spot of the heat source, minimising the time a person is trapped and the time rescuers need to be in hazardous areas.

Drones also help to provide analysis of infrastructure damage in such situations: road collapses could affect emergency response times, for example, and new routes can easily be picked out with an overhead UAV.

<<< How are other emergency services using drones? >>>

Supply Drops

Drones aren’t just for looking at things! Some are designed to carry small payloads such as medicines, blood, or other vital equipment for emergency situations. This means fire and rescue crews can get crucial items to people who are trapped while a larger-scale rescue plan is put in place.

Security And Surveillance

What if you think you’ve still got an arsonist near the scene? Maybe the area on fire is of a sensitive nature, and the blaze leaves it open to trespass or attack.

A drone provides additional security features, as thermal cameras help to spot people who shouldn’t be in the boundaries, and RGB cameras can record any incidents in real-time. The live feed provided by these cameras also helps ground teams coordinate to tackle trespassers or other threats, as it’s easy to direct teams on where to go when you’ve got an overhead view of the situation.

Fire and rescue teams are finding many benefits to using drones – how would your team use one?

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