public safety drone use cases

Fire Service Drone Use Cases

The use of drones in fire services is valuable preemptively, on a live scene and post-fire.  The data gathered can be used for prevention, real-time planning, or reconnaissance following an incident.  With the use of various sensor packages, such as thermal infrared cameras or gas monitors, firefighters gain unprecedented levels of situational awareness. Imagine being able to see through smoke, understanding hot spots on a roof prior to cutting vents, or knowing the intensity of a blaze behind a closed door before deploying firefighters into a potentially dangerous situation.

Using imagery and video from a drone, you can plan your mission more thoroughly on the scene while keeping teams out of harm’s way, whether in an urban setting or at a remote wildfire.  After a fire, conduct investigation and documentation in a more detailed manner using images, video and models otherwise unattainable in many cases.  Direct search and rescue operations more quickly and cover a larger area more efficiently--even at night--no matter how difficult ground access might be.

Outside of emergencies, collect data at regular intervals for fuel mitigation surveys, mapping wildlife urban interfaces, or simply enhancing pre-fire planning.  In all cases, drones enable firefighters to do their job more effectively while ultimately reducing harm to themselves and potential victims.

Pre-fire planning

Collect data on various structures beforehand including building size, construction details such as external materials, number of floors, possible exit routes for occupants, occupancy, hazardous materials locations, and location of hydrants or other water sources.  Also determine where access to structure may be challenging for personnel.

On-scene planning

Gather situational awareness using aerial imagery and video around source of burn, hot spots and conflagration risks, some of which may be inaccessible to (or unsafe for) traditional approaches, such as the use of ladders.  Use this information to better direct water from the fire hose, redirect resources to contain and prevent the spread of the fire, and understand what is happening in areas unsafe for human inspection.

Reduce risk with thermal imaging

Thermal imaging data from drones can help assess thermal flow, find and isolate hidden fires, locate heat accumulation areas, and identify possible ventilation points.  Understand how hot or intense the flames are burning inside the walls or under a roof to avoid exposing personnel to unnecessary danger, such as structure collapse.  These imagers can also see through smoke and better guide water application.  Data from drones helps plan dynamically on-scene and helps incident commanders and personnel make smart decisions throughout the mission.

Wildfires

These incidents can affect a wide geographic area in no time.  Drones can quickly help determine the scope, spread and direction of wildfires without having to deploy large numbers of ground personnel.  There is no need to lose valuable time waiting for helicopters to come onto the scene either.  Live video can help track crews and progress, warn personnel of changing or dangerous conditions, and monitor perimeters—overall aiding in better decision-making.  This data can also help in planning evacuation time lines and routes for inhabitants in the affected area.

Fire burn reconnaissance

Use photos, live video and thermal imaging to understand the extent of damage, locate any lingering hot spots, ensure that critical infrastructure or structural instability is addressed immediately, and help coordinate further response with other agencies.  In the recent highrise tragedy outside of London (Grenfell Tower), drones were flying the scene in the aftermath aiding forensics teams in a more detailed search.

Post-fire activity

Drone data adds a new dimension to post-fire forensics, documentation and investigation.  The imagery, video and photogrammetry available enables unique ways to memorialize a scene during and after the incident, which helps address any shortcomings or aid in improvements for future missions.  This data might not have been accessible without the use of a drone and may prove useful to other agencies or as formal evidence.  The use of 2D mapping or 3D model creation of a scene using a drone is a quick way to capture an area for any future analysis required.

Search and Rescue (SAR)

Such operations typically involve large areas (that may expand over time) with varying terrains that have different accessibility and visibility using traditional approaches.  Drones can great expand the search area and reduce the time required to cover and clear such areas.  This efficiency leads to less time organizing and deploying a manned search party, and eliminates the delays around deploying manned aircraft crews and equipment.  Drones in SAR operations can investigate places that searchers may not be able to access by foot or see from helicopters and planes.  With thermal imagery, drones can hone in on areas of interest more efficiently by quickly seeking out heat signatures.

Routine mapping and data collection

Drone use in regular maintenance and preventative missions can be just as important as in emergency scenarios.  Such data collection is pertinent in a wide variety of scenarios.  Undertaking regular fuel mitigation mapping missions, possibly alongside a local stakeholder such as a utility, can dictate preventative measures such as trimming back trees from power lines or neighborhoods.  With the increase numbers of homes situated at wildfire urban interfaces (WUIs), mapping these areas at regular intervals can alert agencies or homeowners to take preventative measures to avoid fires igniting or spreading.  Similarly, flood maps can help coordinate a disaster response.  3D modeling can help determine if certain areas are prone to mudslides.  Regular mapping of critical areas can provide immense value when comparing a post-disaster area with a “before” image.

Law Enforcement Drone Use Cases

For local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, drones are becoming a necessary tool to conduct safer missions with positive outcomes.  Drones can aid with crimes-in-progress, including tracking fleeing suspects, monitoring an active shooter situation more closely, aiding in high-speed vehicle chases, or zooming in on suspicious objects.

Such enhanced situational awareness helps with tactical planning of next steps, minimizes harm to first responders and potential victims, and allows gathering of intel that may otherwise go unnoticed or unchecked.  Being able to collect this data acts as a true force multiplier and can keep certain situations from escalating and instead come to a swifter, successful resolution.

Often drones can be used in the place of manned helicopters, helping to lower stress on and around a scene and, of course, also reduce operating costs.  For vehicular accidents, drones can map and help reconstruct the scene in a fraction of a time that a manned crew would require, thereby keeping roadway closures to a minimum.  The ability to locate stolen property, monitor mass gatherings without having to deploy additional officers, or find (or recover) missing persons more readily are a sampling of benefits drones provide law enforcement--whether by local police departments, sheriffs offices, hazmat teams, SWAT teams, or various Federal agencies.

Crime-in progress

Drones can provide enhanced situational awareness, even before law enforcement arrives on the scene.  A simple live video stream can provide details on numbers of perpetrators, potential victims, access points, and any weapons or threats involved.  This level of intelligence can be used to adjust the level of response and can better help with strategy on how to initially approach the incident.

Fleeing suspect

While suspects flee on foot or in a vehicle, law enforcement may not always be able to pursue using normal means or may not be near the scene at the time.  Drones enable officers to keep track of fleeing suspects at closer range than a manned aircraft might be able to do (and without the stress-inducing sounds from helicopter blades).  If a suspect is hiding, thermal imaging can be a useful tool to uncover the location, thus helping law enforcement get there more quickly and without being caught off guard.  This type of tracking can shorten the pursuit and certainly save lives.

SWAT teams

These specialized responders can gain scene intelligence with drones in a variety of situations.  Whether the scene involves multiple actors spread across a wide area, or a more confined scene, drones can provide real-time situational awareness that can help SWAT plan its response more effectively.  This could involve getting a closer look at what a suspect is carrying, understanding the access points to a building in a hostage situation, helping inspect a suspicious package, or keeping eyes on an active shooter from above.  SWAT can also have drones capture the scene via a high-resolution 2D map or 3D model to further aid in planning.  All of this intel can lead to a more finely-tuned operation with successful outcomes.

Reduce risk to humans

Drones allow you to inspect suspects up close, get eyes on suspicious packages, take a close look at possible IEDs, and even identify potential hazardous materials all without needing to deploy an officer or agent.  This is certainly helpful in planning next steps to address the situation or person—all without raising stress levels or unnecessarily subjecting responders to harm.

Crime or vehicular accident scene reconstruction

Instead of deploying expensive 3D scanners and multiple human assets to capture and memorialize a crime or vehicular accident sent, drones greatly reduce the time, disruptions and costs associated with the usual methods.  While a 3D scanner may capture a vehicular accident in several hours, while closing down a major roadway, a drone can map the scene—in greater detail—in less than 30 minutes.  Evidence for use in any potential legal action may be collected as well.  This is an enormous benefit for everyone affected by the incident and for post-accident actions.

Lost property and other illegal activity

Drones can help search for and locate lost stolen property.  Recently in Maryland, a drone was used to locate and recover $400,000 of stolen construction equipment.  Drones can also keep eyes on suspicious activity reported in a remote area or even known illegal activity.  This type of surveillance can help law enforcement plan a course of action in a way that minimizes harm and disruption on the scene.

Secure mass gatherings

During large gatherings such as concerts, rallies, festivals, or sporting events, drones can provide situational awareness that otherwise would require a very large manned law enforcement presence.  Live video accessible by central command can help get ahead of any incidents and make sure all areas of a gathering are being monitored appropriately.  This minimizes any lapses in security coverage over what might be a large area with multiple access and exit points.  If an incident occurs, drone footage can help in identifying and tracking suspects very quickly.

Locate missing persons

With the aid of thermal imaging and live video, drones can help provide useful information on the location of missing persons or help recover bodies.  This has use in an individual case, in a large-area natural disaster zone, or following an act of terrorism.

Drones instead of helicopters

Using drones in place of helicopters may be useful in a number of cases.  For example, in an active shooter or hostage scenario that may be prolonged over many hours or even days, using a helicopter is impractical for many reasons (cost, noise, how close it can get, etc.).  Drones can keep the same eyes in the sky, providing real-time video or thermal imagery in possibly greater detail, for longer and far less cost.  This level of situational awareness can greatly aid in planning next moves by law enforcement.  Similarly, drones can quietly collect intel on a known criminal activity prior to a bust, enabling data collection without putting law enforcement in danger and tipping off the suspects of detection.

Emergency Drone Use Cases

Emergency situations encompass widely-unpredictable circumstances, often requiring various agencies to interact, share data, and coordinate a response.  In a widespread natural disaster, such as a tornado, flood or earthquake, imagery and video from drones can give first responders a more complete picture of a scene which facilitates better planning, prioritization and deployment of various assets.  This may involve identifying locations of victims, determining the optimal route to get to them, and possibly even delivering medical supplies ahead of EMS.

With drones deployed ahead of first responders, more specific preparations can be made around dealing with injuries on-site and informing local medical facilities.  Drones can also protect emergency first responders in cases of responding to bomb threats, inspecting hazardous gas leaks, or keeping EMS response teams safe while they respond on an active roadway.

Whether expanding situational awareness and acting as a force multiplier over a large scene, or helping victims alongside (or ahead of) rescue personnel, drones represent a game changer for multi-agency emergency response teams in a wide array of situations.

Natural disasters

After an event like an earthquake, tornado, flood or major storm, drones can quickly be deployed to assess the damage incurred to help plan rescue and recovery efforts.  Drones can survey large areas in a relatively quick manner, capturing high levels of detail, and this data collection is unaffected by any disruptions to transportation infrastructure.

Search and rescue

Using thermal imaging and gas monitoring sensors, drones can help emergency personnel coordinate search and rescue efforts in a way that minimizes harm to all parties.  Certain drone sensors can also help locate victims that might not otherwise be obviously visible or accessible.  This real-time data can cover a large area in a way manned assets on the ground may difficulty with, given the nature of the scene.

Triage

With drones deployed to any scene prior to the arrival of EMS and other emergency personnel, the true extent of a scene can be observed and response plans can be amended appropriately.

Bomb threats

Emergency personnel deployed to assess suspicious packages or to a scene of a bomb threat gain greater situational awareness using drones.  Deploy personnel only when it is absolutely necessary.  Drones can move in close to an object to give responders a detailed look from afar, or they can fly a quick recon path around the reported area of the threat.

Protect EMS personnel

First responders often find themselves in danger while administering care, especially on active roadways following a vehicular accident.  Drones can keep eyes upstream of an accident scene to help alert rescue personnel of any potential dangers approaching.  Appropriate actions can then be taken to avoid another incident.

Deliver medical supplies

A drone can often get to a scene faster than an ambulance, especially in remote areas or ones with traffic congestion.  In certain instances, drones can deliver relevant first aid supplies ahead of personnel arriving on scene.  For example, a recent study in Europe even showed that victims of cardiac arrest outside of a hospital have a much higher chance of survival if a defibrillator is delivered via drone and administered on the spot.

Gas monitoring

In the event of a gas leak or unknown safety of the air around a scene, a drone with appropriate gas monitoring sensors can collect and relay this data ahead of emergency personnel deployment.  This could obviously save lives and prevent a worse scenario.  This form of gas detection is far less expensive than deploying a helicopter.

Access routes

Emergency personnel need to get to an incident as quickly as possible.  However, the routes to the scene may be chaotic, congested or even non-traversable.  Drones can provide real-time intelligence around the scene to help first responders plan the best route possible, thereby increasing the chances of savings lives.

Search & Rescue (SAR) Drone Use Cases

Such operations typically involve large areas (that may expand over time) with varying terrains that have different accessibility and visibility using traditional approaches.  Drones can great expand the search area and reduce the time required to cover and clear such areas.  This efficiency leads to less time organizing and deploying a manned search party, and eliminates the delays around deploying manned aircraft crews and equipment.  Drones in SAR operations can investigate places that searchers may not be able to access by foot or see from helicopters and planes.  With thermal imagery, drones can hone in on areas of interest more efficiently by quickly seeking out heat signatures.

Using thermal imaging and gas monitoring sensors, drones can help emergency personnel coordinate search and rescue efforts in a way that minimizes harm to all parties.  Certain drone sensors can also help locate victims that might not otherwise be obviously visible or accessible.  This real-time data can cover a large area in a way manned assets on the ground may difficulty with, given the nature of the scene.

Locate missing persons

With the aid of thermal imaging and live video, drones can help provide useful information on the location of missing persons or help recover bodies.  This has use in an individual case, in a large-area natural disaster zone, or following an act of terrorism.

Access routes

Emergency personnel need to get to an incident as quickly as possible.  However, the routes to the scene may be chaotic, congested or even non-traversable.  Drones can provide real-time intelligence around the scene to help first responders plan the best route possible, thereby increasing the chances of savings lives.

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