Fla. fire department leading the way in drone use

Southern Manatee Fire and Rescue launched a drone program in 2015 and has been developing ways to use them ever since

By FireRescue1 Staff

SARASOTA, Fla. — A fire department is leading the way in Florida for drone utilization.

Southern Manatee Fire and Rescue launched their drone program in 2015 to help assist with hazard identification during hazmat calls, and has been developing other ways to utilize the technology ever since.

The department now boasts an advanced ground team training program, and uses DJI drones to carry metering devices into “hot zones” to quickly gather information as well as to test for flammable atmospheres.

“For us to be able to get in the situation in just a few minutes and determine what type of hazard this is, if this is something that is going to blow up or something that’s going to poison people, it tells us which direction to take the incident,” Battalion Chief Chris Gould said.

The firefighters navigate the drones with AR/Moverio capability. This allows them to see the view of the drone camera in front of their eyes while keeping important data in view. Thermal imaging is also utilized in the display.

“We had a desire to use the drone for more than just an ‘eye in the sky’,” UAV Coordinator Rich Gatanis said. “We wanted to use the drone in a way that it could take some of the burden off our techs such as recon, hazard ID and metering or remote sensing.”

The department said they are able to work at a higher speed with the technology and have sped up response efforts by one to two hours.

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