How do fire departments use UAVs?

For fire/rescue, the most common use cases are for hazardous materials detection and mitigation (HAZMAT), and search and rescue (SAR).

Imagine the last tanker train you drove by getting derailed. Metal twisting and bending, and now what was inside is coming out. The first job of a HAZMAT responder is to establish what is coming out of the train, and before UAVs, that mean suiting up in a Level A HAZMAT suit, and going into find out. Now, with the advent of UAVs, a few-hundred-dollar piece of plastic can do that work, and save time, money, and most importantly, the health and safety of that operator.

In the case of search and rescue, traditional methods call for search parties to fan out and search in a grid pattern. This is time and resource intensive, and many times, rescuers are hampered by darkness, tree cover, underbrush and tall vegetation. Enter drones, particularly those with thermal cameras, and the job of many can be done with one UAV.

In addition to these two use cases, there are many others.

  • Getting a basic 360-degree view around a burning house can provide valuable information in a much shorter period of time than it would take a firefighter to walk the grounds.
  • Using UAVs to evaluate firefighter performance during training activities is another popular use.
  • And now, with the advent of RFID asset tracking, using a UAV to keep track of people and equipment on an emergency scene has become very important.