Thermal imaging photo.New drone offers sky-high opportunities for Hoodland Fire posted on 04/01/2018
Hoodland Fire District (HFD) Battalion Chief Pat McAbery
offered an example of when a drone helped a public agency at the top of his
head: the Bureau of Land Management had a fire running toward a station last
year and used a drone to spot when the fire jumped a road, helping them stop it
before losing any infrastructure. And in the HFD, the possibilities are also
easy to identify: aerial reconnaissance of fires, floods, trail rescues,
hazardous materials incidents and more; offering real time information
performed with safety in mind.
And now, thanks to a donation from FLIR International, the
district has a multi-role drone with infrared state-of-the-art technology and
three thermal imaging cameras at its disposal.
“It is a growing trend in the industry,” McAbery said,
adding that there are likely a number of scenarios where a drone will be useful
that he can’t even think of now. “It’s an amazingly capable machine.”
McAbery is a certified commercial drone pilot by the Federal
Aviation Administration and noted the district is hoping to train up to five
members, both career staff and volunteers, to be operators. The drone pilots will
need training in numerous areas, including being able to read charts on
airspace (although there is no airspace restrictions in the district, there
could be when firefighters are deployed to incidents outside the district) and
getting familiar with the controls, as directing a drone left or right would
depend on its orientation in relation to the operator.
The drone is an Inspire 1, a mid-sized one made by DJI, with
the camera donated by FLIR. The drone is also set up to be dual operated, with
one pilot and another firefighter able to run the camera.
“If this proves to be really good for us, the new ones have
sensors so they don’t run into things, get signals that an airplane is coming
by,” McAbery said, adding that the district purchased a couple of inexpensive
drones for people to train on.
McAbery noted that when operating the drone, it needs to be
in the pilot’s line of sight the entire time and cannot exceed 400 feet in
“It’s a short distance thing,” he said. “We will come to a
scene, take it out of its box and operate it from there.”
“I think these are incredible assets to our communities and
keeps Hoodland Fire on the cutting edge of public safety,” added HFD Chief John
Ingrao in an email to the Mountain Times.
By Garth Guibord/MT