Drones For Emergency Solutions
Drones are being used increasingly for emergency services, but how can emergency solutions leverage and safely deploy such technology?
This week Skytango hosts a particular guest post by Anna Jackman, Lecturer at Royal Holloway University, on the reasons why drones are increasingly working as tools by emergency service responders.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), or drones, as the platforms are additionally known, will be the technology of the moment.
Drones are increasingly working in a growing range of hobbyist, professional, and civilian functions, with their potential household applications considered “as varied as the platforms themselves”.
This sentiment is reflected in the growing popularity and accessibility of commercially available off-the-shelf drones, used recreationally by hobbyists, with estimates that approximately 200,000 platforms for sale per month globally.
Furthermore, in a recently available report, professional solutions giant Cost Waterhouse Cooper (PWC), proposed that the global marketplace for the business applications of drones, spanning: infrastructure, transport, insurance, press, telecommunication, agriculture and mining sectors, could possibly be valued at over $127 billion by 2020.
Lastly, drones are increasingly being enrolled in a variety of civilian applications. Referring to those applications which happen to be neither professional nor recreational, drones have been employed as equipment for humanitarian, disaster, and emergency service response.
The latter will be the focus of this piece.
DJI’s report on lifesaving drone operations
In profiling the ways that drones have already been employed as tools to both “save and protect human life” in emergency conditions to-date, leading drone maker DJI this year released a report entitled ‘Lives Saved: A Study of Drones in Actions’.
Beginning with the assertion that drones enable first responders to
“accomplish tasks faster, better, better value, and in many cases more safely than previously,”
the report reviews 18 incidents where drones were deployed by unexpected emergency services professionals or members of the general public in assistance of such operations.
Together, these activities were connected with saving 59 lives.
In these instances, drones were found in both search and rescue (SAR) and offer delivery capacities, with the survey concluding that SAR could be the most effective make use of lifesaving drones.
EENA and DJI’s partnership
In making this claim, DJI considered further exploration undertaken in collaboration with the European Emergency Quantity Association (EENA), where the organizations caused emergency products and services teams in the UK, Ireland, Denmark, and Iceland so as to evaluate probable use cases for drones, determine challenges, and develop tips therein.
Drawing upon the results of 60 call-outs in which the drone was deployed (those spanning: missing folks, fire, possible suicide, masses safety, bomb threats, gas and/or perhaps chemical spillages, fishing vessels adrift, animal rescue, and light aircraft crashes), the study figured whilst often not crafted explicitly for such functions, drones have already been used to:
- quickly locate missing persons (covering a 1km area within 20 moments)
- give a valuable aerial point of view facilitating safe businesses for both crews and people of the public
- in the detection of “hot locations” through the use of thermal imaging cameras.
Given such advantages, both interest in and the deployment of drones by crisis services is growing.
In the UK, for instance, as the West Midlands Fire Service were the first to operationally deploy the systems in 2007, the amount of operational forces using or likely to use drones, notably jumped to two thirds of fire services, and half of police forces in 2016, as Sky Media reported.
In this vein, Sussex Police are now operating the greatest drone project in the united kingdom (made up of 5 drones and 40 trained operators), with Devon and Cornwall Police following fit with the announcement of the “first 24-hour drone unit in the united kingdom”.
The Skybound Rescuer Project
Despite the growing fascination in the drone as a crisis companies tool - Gemma Alcock of The Skybound Rescuer Job, a business founded to take clarity to teach the search and rescue community about the value of drones, notes that lots of of the drones marketed to the unexpected emergency companies sector have simply been “transferred” to this market with little or no adaptation, instead of being designed specifically for this.
The Skybound Rescuer Job, then, has stepped up - seeking to provide resources and action plans to get SAR drones airborne. In highlighting the value of this target, The Skybound Rescuer team released this training video, demonstrating their perspective of the drone as a rescue device.
Going to the Rescue Drone Recognition Course
Wanting to roll this out, The Skybound Rescuer Project has presented a “Rescue Drone Awareness” course.
Running their first program on 6th April 2017 at Popham Airfield in Hampshire, I was lucky enough to be in attendance.
Bringing together participants from UK Fire and Rescue, Search and Rescue, and the authorities, this program was billed when “a one-day workshop meant for managers and tacticians to get an understanding of the rapidly emerging fresh technology “.
It targeted at equipping participants with a knowledge of how exactly to evaluate or arrange for the pay for of a little drone and the associated apparatus, what problems to ask manufacturers before purchase or perhaps lease, and what training and regulatory requirements are applicable therein.
The course was a fast-paced and intensive foray through the contemporary civilian drone scenery, covering: terminology, drone categorisation, tailored capability reviews, a technical summary of payload features and capabilities, regulatory requirements, best practice and risk mitigation, factors impacting and limiting operations, and key questions for practitioners to pose to makers ahead of purchasing or leasing a drone.
As pictured, the course also included a live-flying demonstration, allowing participants to start to see the drone in action, and also understanding the steps needed ahead of becoming airborne.
In participating in this program, what struck me personally was the preparation necessitated in realizing another in which the drone is a “welcome addition to the unexpected emergency service toolkit”.
Recognizing the worthiness of drones in emergency services
That said, the worthiness of such systems to the emergency offerings is increasingly getting recognized.
This could be evidenced by both dramatic increase in the use of drones in a range of short-term emergencies and disaster response situations globally, as highlighted in Up in the Air: A WORLDWIDE Estimate of Non-Violent Drone Use 2009-2015, book published by the Joan B. Kroc College of Peace Analyses - University of NORTH PARK.
It’s as well evidenced by the developing partnerships forming between professional parties and the crisis services sector, including:
- DJI’s ongoing training provision, and
- Land Rover’s ‘Task Hero’ - an automobile featuring a built-in drone designed “to greatly help the Red Cross save lives”.
The emergency services sector, then, is apparently living up to its European Commission designation as a key civilian UAV application industry.
What emergency companies should watch over
As has been greatly noted within the sector, however, strides frontward remain bound to legitimate considerations that surround drone use more widely.
As is generally documented in the media, drones are connected with risk: whether through close-cell phone calls with manned aircraft, their enrolment found in inappropriate surveillance, unsafe flights, irresponsible stunts, or due to platforms utilised found in the against the law transportation of contraband.
As such, there remains to be an ongoing tension between your drone as both, simultaneously, an operational learning resource and a potentially recklessly or perhaps maliciously-employed commercially-available device.
In an environment where the drone can be looked at negatively then, it remains particularly very important to emergency services wanting to leverage and properly deploy such technology to adhere to and task the limits of relevant regulation, develop and implement best practice protocol, execute associated risk assessment and mitigation, evidently demarcate their systems and operational sites, and build relationships the city and public considerably more widely in showcasing this probably lifesaving technology.
Dr Anna Jackman, the writer of the above document, is a Lecturer at Royal Holloway, University of London. Her research has involved fieldwork with a range of drone users, regulators, and industry practitioners. Anna is thinking about understanding both how and just why different operational communities deploy drones, and also the mechanisms through which the platforms are governed and purchased more widely. She can be contacted via Twitter @ahjackman.