Drones For First Responders and Utility Response Operations
- November 14, 2018
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Get ready for more drones hovering overhead. Pilot programs are taking flight across the country. East Texas is testing drones as “first eyes” first responders for emergency situations. A drone can arrive to a fire or emergency before first responders and is capable of sending back vital information about what is happening on the ground. Equipped with real-time imaging, thermal imaging and gas detection in cases with dangerous toxins in the air, drones can help save the lives of victims to dangerous situations and save the lives of the men and women working as first responders. Since October, the Chula Vista Police Department has been using drones in emergency situations. Within two minutes of a call, drones are deployed from police headquarters to a scene and provide police with crucial real-time data. Other San Diego pilot projects include flying medical specimens from UC San Diego for expedited results and cost savings. And with the increased air-traffic, it’s comforting to know that AirMap will use drones to provide real-time airspace management.
Nationwide, drones are assisting in various fields. Firefighters are using them to assess damage and the best course of action. Unmanned drones can operate in high temperatures, fly at night through heavy smoke and arrive to a fire quicker than a fire engine. One drone model drops flammable spheres to set controlled fires that reduce the spread of a wildfire. Drones can quickly and cost-effectively conduct property inspections and identify hazards. For the past two years, PG&E has been using drones for substation mapping but now for wildfire response. PG&E has launched a squadron of drones to conduct aerial surveys and gather information on the condition of its infrastructure in the midst of the worst series of wildfires ever in Northern California. They are most effective in areas unaccessible to utility personnel and ground-based equipment. Four teams of four are working to assess damage. Each team includes a pilot, an observer/co-pilot from the drone vendor, an equipment assessment expert, and a safety officer to ensure public safety. Ned Biehl, PG&E director of aviation services commented that the technology allows the utility to support first responders and ensure a safer restoration process. And a long process it will be. As of today, Camp Fire and Woolsey Fire are 30 percent contained. The Hill Fire is 85 percent contained.