Drones eyed as first responders

Drones eyed as first responders
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One of the world’s largest drone manufacturers is working to develop a blueprint for using unmanned aircraft for emergency response efforts.

The company, DJI, announced a new partnership with the European Emergency Number Association (EENA) this week that will explore how drones can be integrated into first response missions. Those missions could include coordinating search and rescue operations or surveying chemical accidents and large car crashes.

EENA, based in Brussels, is a non-governmental organization that serves as a platform for emergency services, public authorities, researchers and associations.


Over the next year, the program will work to gain a deeper understanding of how unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) can assist emergency responders in a range of different environments and conditions.

“We hope to demonstrate the power of aerial systems in first response missions,” said Romeo Durscher, DJI’s director of education.

“Drones are transforming the way first response and civil protection missions operate by not only helping commanders make faster, smarter and better informed decisions, but also by providing first responders with more detailed information from an aerial perspective.

The new efforts come as U.S. regulators work to develop a federal framework for drones.

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerBipartisan, bicameral group unveils 8 billion coronavirus proposal The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - GOP angst in Georgia; confirmation fight looms Congress ends its year under shadow of COVID-19 MORE is also pushing to broaden the potential uses for unmanned craft to include first response.

The Virginia Democrat filed an amendment to the Senate’s long-term reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration that would authorize public entities to use drones in response to disasters, catastrophes and other emergencies.

“I firmly believe that unmanned systems have the potential to revolutionize how we go about our business and our lives," said Warner in a statement. 

"This amendment will ensure that localities and emergency responders who do not have their own trained and certified UAS operators will still be able to benefit from the use of this technology to assist with evacuation, respond to natural disasters, and other emergency situations.”

A vote has not been scheduled on the amendment, but drone issues are likely to consume a chunk of the debate when senators pick up consideration of the FAA bill on Monday.

DJI’s program will select teams of pilots in Europe to receive hands-on training and guidance about developing software to conduct emergency drone operations. The goal is to share insights and best practices with the international community after the program is complete.

The Greater Copenhagen Fire Department in Denmark has already been selected as one test site. There the focus will be on fire fighting, accidents and over-water environments.

The Donegal Mountain Rescue Team in Ireland is another test site that will focus on search and rescue missions and crowd sourcing.

“The technology is easy to deploy and can be used in dangerous situations without risking pilots’ lives,” Durscher said. “This ultimately saves lives and property.”