Drones are proving to be a game changer for US emergency responders who are increasingly using the technology to spot fires, detect toxic gas or to locate missing people or suspects, experts say.
From an article in Tech Xplore.
“Where we cannot go, we will now be putting an unmanned aircraft system (UAS). Where we can’t see, we can now put a UAS,” Richard Fields, battalion chief with the Los Angeles Fire Department, told AFP at a conference on drones this week in Los Angeles.
Fields said his department, one of the first major metropolitan fire departments to have a significant drone program, has deployed the devices in at least 300 incident-related missions since 2017.
“It fills the gap between helicopters in the sky and the boots on the ground,” he said of the dozen drones used by his department.
“And it provides us with quick, accurate information that now allows us to make better decisions in deploying resources and mitigating the emergency.
“I no longer have to guess, I see it.”
The drones are able to cover large areas in little time, recording video via infrared technology that can help locate “hot spots” in a fire.
They can also zoom in on a license plate a mile (1.6 kilometers) away and greatly reduce the time it takes to locate a suspect or missing person.
Romeo Durscher, director of public safety integration at DJI, the world’s leading maker of civilian drones, said the use of the devices has increased six-fold between 2015 and 2018, helping save at least 278 lives worldwide.
“What is really, really awesome about (drones) is it doesn’t matter if you’re large or small, you can employ the technology regardless,” said Todd McNeal, fire chief at Twain Harte, a small rural town located near California’s famed Yosemite National Park, where drones have been used to help combat wildfires.
McNeal noted that a commercial drone costs about $50 an hour to operate as opposed to $1,500 for a helicopter which can be hampered by thick smoke and must return to base to refuel and change crew.
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