The recent rise of drone aircraft technology has some people running scared. A recent commercial from Audi showing off the tech features in their newest model car featured a swarm of drones attacking consumers. The commercial ends saying technology does not have to be scary, but people are still leery when it comes to using drones. Regardless, Pulaski County Emergency Management in Virginia has started putting a drone to work saving lives, overcoming public fear in the process.
They purchased their drone, a $1,750 DGI Phantom III, after a man went missing in the cold a few weeks ago. It was late in the evening, and temperatures had dropped just below freezing. A helicopter was requested, but it had travel from neighboring Lynchburg, not to mention the time lost requesting the aircraft. Within 20 minutes of hitting the scene, the helicopter had located the missing man, but not before he had spent almost the entire night alone and lost in the cold.
While the drone cannot replace the versatility of a helicopter, it has already seen use in a variety of settings and been a fantastic boon to the emergency management team’s efforts. It was used to inspect the columns on a local building that otherwise would not have easily been reached. They were found to be in need of repair, a catch that will hopefully prevent any dangers posed by the cracked columns.
The drone was also used in a river rescue. Rough waters overturned a kayak, and they were too rough to send rescuers out to recover the lost kayaker. The drone was used to survey the water, allowing rescuers to quickly reach him and put themselves at minimal risk.
The department intends to use the drone for fighting fires and to help with search and rescue operations of all kinds. They will have to obey strict government regulations, including a 400-foot altitude limit and restrictions on flying over crowds, but those regulations can be bent as needed in emergency situations. The drone has already proved its usefulness to the emergency management team, and hopefully, its continued usefulness will calm any fears about the use of this new technology.