Here's How To Fight Fire With Drones

Here is our comprehensive guide to scaling drone operations for a fire department.
October 21, 2020 by
Here's How To Fight Fire With Drones
Unmanned Vehicle Technologies, Andrew McKinney

If you’re familiar with UVT, you know that we have a passion for integrating drones into public safety operations. In fact, some of us are former firefighters, so we have seen the benefits first hand. We recently published a blog about Department of Defense-approved drones, and the implications of drones in public safety are evolving every day. Unmanned vehicles have countless impressive capabilities, and they can also save lives. Read here how drones helped first responders fight fires and avoid an explosion at the Winston Weaver Co. fertilizer plant in North Carolina.

Here is our comprehensive guide to scaling drone operations for a fire department.

How could a fire department justify the cost of a drone?

We know that UAVs are a sizable financial commitment, so we brought in our friend Gabe Graveline, the EMS Officer and Robotics Lead at the Tulsa Fire Department, to give us some insight into his experiences with fire department drone integration.

“This is a no-brainer... by preventing just one injury. The time lost on an injured member adds up very quickly. You will find that most cities lose hundreds of thousands of dollars on workman’s comp injuries that could be prevented by sending in an unmanned system to survey or recon incident scenes prior to committing personnel,” Graveline said.

It could easily be argued that by saving one life you have justified the cost of a drone. Any kind of equipment that you can put in a firefighter’s hands that could help keep them safe is well worth any price. Of course, there are countless other uses and benefits of utilizing drones in your fire department that will justify their cost.

How could drones help a fire department?

Drones can help command staff gather and analyze information much quicker than traditional methods. This allows them to direct resources more efficiently than ever before. Having a bird’s eye view provides a different perspective that was not available before.

Here are the three specific ways drones can help a fire department according to Graveline:

Situational Awareness

From active scenes to emergency pre-planning, drones allow you to assess the scene for hazards to personnel, bystanders, and surrounding properties. They can endure high temperatures and extreme weather conditions from above that humans simply can’t. This type of view and insight is only achievable through aircraft.

Drones can not only help monitor the current situation but also analyze where the disaster could spread. Since firefighters don’t just fight fires, they also respond to other catastrophic events and natural disasters, this benefit is key. A higher, wider point-of-view will help you know the best strategy to start containing and minimizing the threat to your fighters and the people affected.

Reducing Risk

UAVs also help reduce risks for department personnel or civilians in hazardous atmospheres or terrain. Simply using cameras helps you see infrastructure issues, find trapped people, and create a strategy to approach a disaster in a safer way.

Firefighters have fallen through roofs because of how weak they had become from the fire. With thermal technology, their team could have scanned the rooftop for hotspots and would have been able to prevent the injury from happening.

Force Multiplier

Drones can help multiply your task force during searches for lost, stranded, or impaired individuals. Not necessarily by finding the exact location of the victim, but by finding the most ideal locations to deploy manpower and resources. Using drones to multiply your force helps you save money and approach missions with an insight-driven strategy.

Graveline explained that drones can also be helpful when you are unable to get manned aerial support in a timely manner. “I believe even in the event that a manned program is available, UAS can supplement responses when coordinated correctly,” he said.

UVT’s team has personally trained firefighters, and the fire departments have greatly benefited from having drone and thermal technology. It can truly help save lives.

What drones and payloads would be helpful for fire departments?

Any drone that has thermal capabilities would help a fire department because of its ability to help gather critical heat and structural information on the scenes where there are fires. A few payloads and drones that have unmatched thermal capabilities include the DJI Zenmuse H20TDJI Matrice 300 RTK, Skydio X2E, Autel Robotics EVO II 640T and DJI Mavic 3 Thermal.

Graveline recommends systems with lights, speaker systems, zoom RGB Cameras, IR payloads, drop mechanisms or communication relay antennas. (If your UAV terminology needs brushing up, here’s our Complete List of UAV Terms You Need To Know.) The Inspired Flight IF1200 has many of these capabilities, as well as the DJI Matrice 300 RTK and Matrice 200 series.

Even with our recommendations, we know finding the right drone can seem like a daunting task. UVT is here to help. Our experts have years of experience on and off the field and are dedicated to helping you find the perfect solution for your department. Contact us and we will ask you more about your organization so we can put together a fleet that is right for you.

Still have questions?

Our specialists would love to answer them. Every day firefighters risk their lives to protect our country. We would be honored to help you implement drone operations that can make your job safer and easier.

Interested in learning more? Contact us today!

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