Drones are becoming a critical tool for first responders and law enforcement across the country. Forward-thinking emergency responders are using drones, also called Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), to improve emergency prevention, response and recovery operations. With Hurricane Dorian bearing down on Florida and other East Coast states at the time of this writing, disaster response teams are readying their drones. Experts say drones will likely play an even bigger role in relief efforts when future storms or disasters hit.
More and more fire and police departments are using drones to arrive at the scene of the disaster by air. The more drones are used to do the initial work, the less first responders are put into harm’s way. Public safety personnel are dealing with life safety missions requiring fast results every single day. Public safety departments need reliable, cost-effective systems that allow them to achieve their objectives as efficiently as possible.
Drones can be deployed instantaneously to respond to emergencies. Currently, over 900 state and local police, fire and rescue units are equipped with UAVs whose goal is to reduce costs, lower response times and share disaster recovery efforts with the public.
Here are a few examples of how drones are being used to perform critical tasks during and following disasters.
UAVs are being used to provide real-time information to improve on-site responses during disasters. Thermal imaging cameras provide insights and cameras affixed to drones allow firefighters to see through smoke and water spray more accurately. Real-time video also delivers information that allows fire fighting crews to determine the concentration of heat within a structure and decide whether it’s safe to enter. Over the past few years, UAVs have become standard protocol for many fire departments across the U.S.
Full fleets of drones are being used for search and rescue operations by police departments. They are also being used for collision and crime scene documentation, HAZMAT incidents, traffic and crowd monitoring at large events and hostage situations.
Drones are playing a critical role after large-scale natural disasters, such as the aftermath of devastating hurricane flooding. Pilots use UAVs to assess damage to critical infrastructure, inform recovery planning and strategies and broadcast footage to homeowners.
During and after a major tropical storm, there is devastation from the high winds and often no mobile connectivity, making it impossible to capture essential data or use GPS. Large fallen trees block roads as well as long driveways into people’s homes. This creates barriers for search teams to conduct their operations. Drones are able to look beyond the roadway obstructions. They are able to fly over a given area to check the conditions of homes and make an initial determination whether there are residents in need of assistance. They allow first responders to develop new tactics for team operations, such as force protection, search and rescue and damage assessment during and immediately following the storm.
Drones provide high resolution video that is being used to assist search and rescue missions and relay changing storm and flood conditions. Footage captured during storms and published on social media have built trust in drone technology and served as a positive publicity tool.
Drone technology is safer and more cost-effective that manned aircraft. The operating cost of a helicopter can run as high as $600 per hour, while drone operations average $25 per hour.
Currently, drones serve a myriad of applications in emergency relief, with many more to come as regulations relax.
For the most part, public safety officials are enthusiastically embracing the use of UAVs in their area. While some departments are hesitant to launch UAV programs due to either costs or logistics, most are now aware of drone technology and are starting to take the necessary steps to embrace the use of UAVs for emergency disaster relief.
Lanier Upshaw offers important emergency preparedness guidance to help you protect yourself, your loved ones and your property. If you would like more information on how we can help you be better prepared for a hurricane or other disaster, contact us here.