Small unmanned aerial vehicles, colloquially known as drones, are being adopted by more public safety agencies around the world than ever before; and the number of lives they’re saving is climbing dramatically.
On one recent day, four people were saved by drones, in three separate incidents around the world.
Drone manufacturer DJI calls it a ‘marked new milestone in public safety drone use,’ in a press release issued last month.
On May 31st, Wayne Township Fire Department in Indiana used a drone to drop a life jacket to a fleeing suspect, who had gotten himself into a near drowning situation in a lake.
Thermal imaging camera on drones
On that same day, officials in a Texas town near Dallas dropped life jackets to a mother and daughter who found themselves in rising floodwater; and police in the UK used a drone with a thermal imaging camera to find a stranded hiker on a dangerous cliff.
“We are seeing more and more life-saving stories coming out of these agencies,” says Matt Sloane, CEO of Skyfire Consulting, a group who works with public safety agencies to adopt drone programs.
“This technology can no longer be written off as a ‘toy’ or a plaything. It’s a front-line tool in public safety, and it’s already saving lives.”
|The UAV is one of the most exciting tools to come along that improves first responder safety and efficiency"|
UAVs for Public Safety
For many agencies, including the Wayne Township Fire Department, the technology has been a game-changer.
“In my 32 years working in Public Safety, the UAV is one of the most exciting tools to come along that improves first responder safety and efficiency,” said Captain Mike Pruitt, Wayne Township’s UAV program manager. “The possibilities of what we can do with these aircraft are endless.”
Pruitt, who worked with Skyfire to start his drone program, says he’s flying the departments’ aircraft several times a week in his area, and in other parts of Indiana where he’s called to assist.
They even flew last week in heavy downpours with DJI’s Matrice 210 aircraft, a water-resistant drone.
More than 900 public safety agencies around the country are flying drones, according to a recent Bard College study, up 200% from last year’s report, but this is only the tip of the drone iceberg, says Sloane.
“There are over 100-thousand public agencies in the US,” he says. “Early adopters like Wayne Township are showing the other 99-thousand agencies out there that this technology can be implemented safely, effectively, and will truly save lives.”
Public Safety UAV symposium
Skyfire has worked with over 120 of those 900 agencies, including the Los Angeles Fire Department, Orlando Fire Department, Miami-Dade Fire, and most recently, Houston Fire.
“Big and small, our clients are taking their response capabilities to the next level, and I don’t see this trend slowing down anytime soon,” Sloane says.
Skyfire will be holding a public safety UAV symposium with Memorial Villages Police Department and Houston Fire Department July 30th and 31st in the Houston Area.