Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s), or drones, have been around since the Austrians sent 200 explosive-packed balloons to attack Venice in 1849. While they are still used for military reasons, drones have become a fun hobby for some and a way of streamlining package delivery for others like Amazon. The FAA registered 1.1 million drones in 1999 in the US alone. Business Insider forecasts this to increase to 2.4 million by 2023, serving the main sectors of agriculture, construction, mining, insurance and media/telecommunications, as well as general private use.
If you have read any of my books, you know I love drones and now I have reason to love them even more. At least two cities in the US have been experimenting with using drones to respond to 911 calls. The City of Houston, Texas, has almost completed their proof of concept and they are about to reveal the success rate to the public. Using two different products from a leading vendor, Paladin Drones, they were able to demonstrate that drones could respond within 90 seconds, sending live video / infrared feeds to attending police, fire, and paramedics. This means that the first responders are getting accurate information on the situation they are rushing towards, including views around the scene, the size of fires or accidents, and hidden dangers that cannot easily be seen from ground level.
Chula Vista, the second-largest city in San Diego County, California, has been using drones from DJI since 2018 with significant success. One of their findings is that fast response drones allow central controllers to complete a speedy initial assessment of the incident with the potential to get additional resources rolling while the first set of responders are still en route. With infrared camera’s drones are also able to track fleeing criminals who are on foot through the trees or in the dark and see-through light smoke if there is a fire related call.
Meanwhile in Canada, a police drone crashed into a small Cessna aircraft on August 10th, 2021, as the plane landed at Buttonville Airport (Ontario). Despite significant damage to the Cessna, the pilot completed the landing safely. The police confirmed they were operating their drone in controlled (Class E) airspace without notice but have not disclosed why it was there. I want to know – don’t you?
Drone technology has enormous potential to help in emergency situations, and I’m certain will become part of our every day lives, despite concerns over privacy and accidents. Regulations are coming into place already, and will no doubt need to be adjusted with experience.
What do you think? Do you welcome them for such purposes, or would you prefer they remain fictional tools or toys? Please let me know in the comments below.