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By providing an aerial view of an incident drones help Incident Commanders develop tactics to help tackle it. Drones may also be able to access areas which are unsafe for firefighters. Overall, they improve safety for our crews, and help improve our response to incidents.
We have two drones – the DJI Matrice 210 and the DJI Phantom 4.
The 30x optical camera gives Commanders on the ground live images of the incident scene. It’s so powerful it can read a number plate half a mile away.
The thermal imaging camera can detect heat sources as small as a duck, and may be used to check the temperature of cylinders at risk of exploding, monitor heat spread in a warehouse fire, or spot casualties in water.
In order to operate the drones, a drone pilot must have completed a week-long training course, and extra training for more specialist uses like night flying.
Each drone is operated by a minimum of two people – one who pilots the drone and one who operates the cameras. Whenever possible a third person will also attend, to help with setting up and acting as an observer for any hazards.
Currently we're trialling the use of drones. Over the course of this trial the drone team will attend a wide range of incidents where they may be of help. Each use of the drones will be logged, and their impact measured. The results of this trial, with hired drones, will allow us to understand how to use the drones most effectively, as well as how many, and what type, of drones we’ll need in the future.