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Emergency Services: Drones On The Frontline

Last updated on

October 31, 2020


    Emergency Services: Drones On The Frontline

    Everyone has seen the show 999: What’s your emergency? If you haven’t, it is following the lives of emergency services personnel responding to 999 calls. It’s interesting to see how each service works from behind the scenes. But what they don’t show is how the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), better known as drones are being used to help save lives today.

    Commercial drones are already well established in a variety of industries such as agriculture, construction, and photography. But, they are also becoming an increasing addition within emergency services – revolutionising the service and helping to save lives.

    Amongst these industries, drones have reinvented ways of working- they have allowed for inspection, surveying, searching and mapping to be much more efficient. For all sectors in the UK, the use of drones offers lower cost and improved productivity within their service, resulting in an immediate impact on the economy. Using drones for specific missions will also reduce risk to personnel, enhance the quality of service and free workers up to focus on other essential tasks.

    Yet there remains a notable distrust towards drones among the general public, not helped by the lack of education on the technology but also the negative media attention. The use of drones at Gatwick airport in December 2018, for example, revealing significant disruptions and highlighting the risks of commercial and civilian drones more widely.

    While the country remains unsure, our team here at COPTRZ are eager to revolutionise organisations using drones by providing training, hardware, consultancy and on-going support. We are passionate about helping organisations such as the emergency services to use drones in their vital work – we know that drones can save lives and we want to help by providing a free drone training programme for emergency services across the UK. For more information, please click here.

    Within this article, we will explore;
    • How emergency services are adopting drone technology to help them save lives.
    • The possible adverse effects of drone use.
    • What the future may hold for the use of UAVs within public safety.
    Our team at COPTRZ have already helped several different public safety departments to create tailored drone solutions, making their operations faster, safer and cost-effective. They include:
    • Devon & Cornwall Police
    • Dorset Police
    • Leicester Police
    • Air Accidents and Investigation Branch
    • Kent Fire and Rescue Service
    • Drones to the rescue

    If you would like to speak to one of our public safety experts about incorporating drones into your operations, please click here.

    The police force is increasingly adopting the use of drones in their service for various tasks. Devon & Cornwall, for example, are experimenting with the use of UAVs to take 3D images of serious road traffic accidents allowing them to make quick and fast decisions about the next actions to take. A drone can also be tasked with capturing thermal imagery allowing personnel to locate and save lives as well as apprehend criminals. While this technology is already in use via helicopters for such missions, the use of drones is quicker and much more cost-effective.

    One example of the use of thermal imagery is when Norfolk Police, a long-standing partner of COPTRZ, rescued a 75-year-old man who had found himself stuck in a thick marsh with water up to his armpits. Stranded for 21 hours, he was detected using a police drone. Norfolk police stated: “There is no doubt that without the police drone we would not have been able to locate him in the time we did.”

    Police forces have previously noted that UAVs can support police actions in several ways: to provide data to make better tactical decisions, to provide information without the physical use of personnel and without provoking a reaction from a suspect.

    Specialist ambulance crews across the UK have adopted drones when dealing with medical emergencies. Using a drone allows the team leader to observe high-risk incidents quickly and before allowing staff to enter the scene. It also gives a quick overview of a patients condition informing them of what equipment or human resources they might need to treat the patient effectively.

    As the use of drones for deliveries become increasingly popular with companies such as Amazon, it is also evident that drones are useful in the medical transportation of organs, medication and blood. Tris Dyson at Nesta stated: “Quite a lot of that currently relies on couriers on motorcycles or blue-light vehicles going through busy traffic areas, and it could make a difference to people’s life expectancy.” Not only are drones a cheaper and faster resource, but it also frees a vehicle or personnel who would typically be transporting the delivery – allowing them to reunite with the force on the front line.

    Benefits of the technology are already being seen in the UK within the fire service. The Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service have been using UAVs since 2015 and is one of the world’s first fire services to have 24-hour drone capability. The use of drone missions had made a significant impact for the service, including a time when drone footage alerted the team that several of the crew members were next to an unsupported wall and therefore in danger. Offering the perfect birds-eye view enables firefighters to make time-critical decisions. Similarly, Surrey Search and Rescue are using drones to support them in all areas of their work, including dangerous or inaccessible areas.

    Drones are also able to record and store evidence quickly and without intrusion. This advantage in a car accident, for example, will allow for a road to open promptly and for personnel to be safer as they won’t have to be collecting as much evidence at the scene. The emergency services are often tasked with the job to collect evidence and photographs at a scene. Drone technology can do this much quicker – saving time, money and lives by allowing emergency workers to move on to another call out.

    public safety

    Mistrust of UAVs

    While drones offer so many positive opportunities within the emergency services, they can also provide some dilemmas which may lead to the understanding of why the general public have a mistrust of the technology.

    Some people fear that the use of drones will replace current job roles held by humans. It is important to remember that the use of UAVs is not going to mean that they will replace personnel. It just means that the way they are working will change. For example:

    • There will be fewer workers deployed into dangerous conflicts.
    • There will be less of a need for evidence gathering, allowing personnel to be available for other tasks.
    • Incidents can be dealt with more quickly, resulting in an improved service.
    • Analysis of information will be quicker, resulting in fast tactical decisions.

    The increased use of commercial drone technology will see significant investments within the economy and would lead to more highly skilled jobs in all sectors, including emergency services.

    What kit for the job?

    With every emergency service requiring specific needs for their drone, it’s essential to get the right one. Do you want a drone to assist your SAR operations? Which thermal imaging camera should you choose? Do you need a drone that’s light-weight and quick to deploy? We can make sure that you get the best possible solution – not only to assist you and your team but also to help save lives. Here a few of our UAVs that are an excellent fit for emergency services.

    The Parrot Anafi USA is a durable, reliable and accurate all-mission UAV. Made in the USA, it is ultra-portable and features dual thermal and visual imagery. It is the quietest drone in its class, ideal for stealth operations, and it can succeed in more than one expedition with improved battery life. It can fly during challenging operations including high winds and is water and dust resistant – making it an essential addition to any drone fleet in the police and fire organisations.

    The Parrot ANAFI Work is perfect for those looking for a drone that is lightweight for use on-the-go. The ANAFI Work features a high-quality 4K HDR camera and a host of high spec features that make it suitable for commercial drone operators on a budget. Featuring a top speed of up to 32mph, ANAFI was made to resist difficult weather conditions thanks to its carbon reinforced frame and camera that resists temperatures from -10° to +40°.

    Pix4Dreact is another great addition for first responders and emergency services. The software processes drone imagery on-scene at lightning speed without the need for mobile connectivity and is ideal for emergency planning and disaster recovery. Real-time mapping enables rescue operations to identify how they are going to get from point A to point B most efficiently and effectively.

    The Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual has been developed in partnership with FLIR systems. It features a three-axis gimbal stabilised camera housing a side-by-side 4K sensor, allowing users to capture visible light and a FLIR Lepton® thermal micro-camera for capturing thermal data.

    The Matrice M210 is situated as the middle model in the Matrice Series, the M210 V2 benefits from a dual gimbal which enables the operator to capture two data sources at the same time. This is particularly useful in industries such as search & rescue or solar panel inspection where a user may require simultaneous HD imaging and thermal imaging.

    The Matrice 300 RTK is DJI’s latest commercial drone platform that takes inspiration from modern aviation systems. Offering up to 55 minutes of flight time, advanced AI capabilities, 6 Directional Sensing & Positioning and more, the M300 RTK sets a whole new standard by combining intelligence with high-performance and unrivalled reliability.



    The future

    By 2030, accident response drones could be more popular within the UK. They already enable access to live data from accident scenes and are able to record and store evidence without intrusion, but the future for drones could be limitless.

    We could see a day where several drones are being used at scenes to act together and feedback different information. As drone technology becomes smarter they are able to work along with other smart technology and other data inputs to allow the prediction of possible road traffic accidents. This will not only allow for public safety sectors to act to prevent such an accident but also could open up new opportunities for the public sector; for example, selling data to insurance companies, so that they have an accurate analysis for any claims made.

    Search and rescue operations stand to reap significant benefits from drones, as the sensors they carry can continue to operate in poor and inhospitable conditions where humans would struggle to work effectively or safely. This capability helps keep personnel away from dangerous situations while also removing the need for more expensive options such as helicopters.

    When used effectively, and as drone technology becomes smarter, the real-time life-saving data captured by UAVs can make a high impact on emergency services across the UK, as well as industries all over the world.

    At COPTRZ, we pledge to help emergency services to find the appropriate UAV for their needs. Whether it’s increasing the capability of a current UAV team, or creating a team for the first time, utilising technology for public safety, health and order are essential. To support, we are offering Free Lifetime Access to our online training portal, COPTRZ Academy, free to those who need it within the emergency services. It includes lifetime access to additional courses, webinars, reports, How-to tutorials from experts around the world and more. You will also receive classroom training with a live trainer supporting you through all your drone training modules required by the CAA. If you would like any support on your drone needs, please get in touch with us here.


    Commercial and recreational drone use in the UK, House of Commons-

    Skies without limits. Drones – taking the UK’s economy to new heights, PWC


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