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How the Use of Drones is Revolutionising the Emergency Services

How the Use of Drones is Revolutionising the Emergency Services

It is always a massive benefit to any technological advancements when they are able to be to used for the common good – such as to help the emergency services to keep people safer. Whilst the use of drones has been talked about in science fiction films for years, it is only recently that we are beginning to see their full potential in the real world.

Our emergency services do great work, often in the face of adversity and in difficult circumstances. Any technology that can help them to do their job is beneficial not only to them, but also to the public as a whole.

Using Drones
The innovations in the world of drones mean that they are smaller, more agile, better controlled, and better equipped for use by our emergency services. It means that they can replace more traditional (and costly) surveillance operations equipment such as helicopters (about £850 per hour, or £283 per 20-minute exercise) at a fraction of the price.

Cost of police helicopter infographic

An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) can also be sent into situations which are dangerous or difficult to access in person – such as hostage situations or terrain that is inaccessible without high specialised access equipment. This means that the emergency services can get a better overview of a situation, and understand what is required before going in, in person.

A key benefit to using drone technology is in collection of data and intelligence. For example, collecting evidence used to analyse the scene of an accident. The emergency services spend a lot of time documenting the details of an accident with laser scanners and photos before it can be cleared up. Technology onboard the drone can do this quicker, saving time, money, and potentially lives by enabling the debris from an accident to be cleared away more quickly.

Drones gather evidence at accident scenes

This technology is also beneficial to the emergency services because it can cut down on the amount of training needed, both in terms of learning to fly helicopters, and also in manual evidence gathering techniques.

Some Practical Examples
Whilst drone technology isn’t being used across all of the emergency services, we are seeing an increase in its use with revolutionary effects. This is mainly in surveillance, law enforcement and search and rescue.

French police used drones to help with surveillance during the Euro 2016 football tournament, especially in the heightened security situation and terrorism risk. Their solution was to procure two drones with a minimum speed of 22 miles per hour and infrared thermal imaging, as well as being able to recognise license plates from at least 50m at an altitude of 30m.

Cumbria Police’s Operational Support Unit has invested in two UAVs to be used for a number of different operations. They have been used recently to find a missing man on the Cumbrian coast, and Devon and Cornwall Police have also used them in the search and rescue of a missing woman in the Plymouth area.
Devon and Cornwall Police are experimenting with the use of drones to take 3D images of serious road traffic accidents.

Fire crews in Lincoln used UAVs to locate and rescue two teenage boys who were stuck on top of a roof in Gainsborough.

Drone Technology
The possibilities of what can be done in the future with drone technology are endless, and as new opportunities open up, the technology will follow. In terms of how the use of UAVs can change and help the way that our emergency services operate, it is important that the companies who are developing this technology have a deep respect and understanding of what is required and what is possible.

This is why it is important that a good, strong, trusting and effective relationship is built between the emergency services and the technology and software developers. Companies such as Komodo have already developed software to help with the aerial capturing of data from drones – Overwatch, which has been successful thanks to good communication and understanding of the unique needs of the emergency services. It is this type of relationship that will cultivate a successful and effective future for drone technology.

It is important to remember that the use of drone technology is not going to mean that less emergency services personnel are needed. It just means that the way that emergency personnel are used will change. For example:

There are of course still limitations to the work that can be carried out by drones, for example, in extreme weather, they either cannot function or are inhibited. There are still many other areas which can be explored in terms of the possible uses for UAVs.

This is why it is so important for software companies such as Komodo who already have a sound understanding of what the emergency services require – and desire – to continue to work closely with the Police, Fire Service and other emergency services, develop their expertise and help to make a real difference.

Chief Inspector Matt Kennerley, from the Operational Support Unit of Cumbria Police, stated in an interview:

_“The benefit of using UAVs to assist police operations has already been proven in other police force areas, and we believe this is going to be an innovative and cost-effective resource that will enable officers to save lives and tackle criminal activity.” _

“The UAVs will help collect evidence and monitor events, from a distance which would help us detect crime and prosecute offenders. The UAVs can also be deployed into situations where deploying patrols would put members of the public or officers themselves at risk.”

The opportunities that are arising from the use of drones within the emergency services are revolutionising how they deal with incidents, meaning they are saving money, time, and most importantly, lives. The continuing development of UAV/drone technology within the emergency services will see improvements in service delivery, cost effectiveness, security and most importantly safety.

For more information about Overwatch, drone technology or other software designed by Komodo, contact us today.