*All pictures taken by Photographer Chad Wittenberg. Go to firstname.lastname@example.org if interested in acquiring any photo.
Firefighters deserve the best vehicles and equipment the customers can afford. This includes technology.
There has been a lot of talk about using unmanned aircraft in emergency service, but because the technology is fairly new, potential customers are hesitant to jump in.
The El Dorado Fire Department is one of those who recognize the value of Unmanned Aircraft Vehicle UAV, but uncertainty and cost was holding them back. Along comes a company named NMotion.
NMotion is a newly formed Unmanned Aircraft business that was in need of a user to jumpstart the technology. This aligned NMotion with the El Dorado Fire Department. Through an agreement NMotion will loan one of their aircraft to the El Dorado Fire Department in exchange for use of any videos taken by the EFD.
Today was one of those training exercises. The aircraft won’t be used in the suppression of vehicle fires, but it was good to train on the steps to using the aircraft.
There are still some steps needed to be taken before the FD can use the aircraft, but things are getting much closer. We will share future steps as they happen.
Day 3 of refinery training brought a unique addition – aerial aircraft were onsite for this final day of training.
John Martins is the owner of the new company called NMotion. Martins brought four aerial aircraft and a slew of other equipment. One aircraft called Phantom was quickly deployed.
Martins also invited an aerial aircraft company representative from another company. This fellow had a super small aircraft that’s been marketed primarily with the military. This camera launched from the controller’s hand. After taping, the controller had it alight right back on his hand.
The battery life for the aircrafts was between 20-30 minutes – the small military one getting the 30.
The usages are really multiple. You could use an aircraft like it was used today – training. Emergencies would include fires, rescues, hazmat just to name three.
In 90 seconds you can have an aircraft launched and providing you with overhead video footage. What incident commander wouldn’t want that?
Yesterday a group of panelists met at the Kansas Law Enforcement Center Auditorium to share thoughts concerning Unmanned Aircraft Systems. The House of Representatives have the topic in committee.
It seems logical with something that could hurt somebody that there needs to be rules. There have been a few “close calls” with unmanned aircraft. But, when you think of the number of these aircraft out there the incident numbers are minimal. With that being said here’s some of the rules being proposed:
* Unmanned aircraft must weigh less than 55 lbs.
* The unmanned aircraft must remain within visual line of sight.
* Small unmanned aircraft may not operate over any persons not directly involved in the operation.
* Daylight-only operations (official sunrise to official sunset
* Must yield right of way to other aircraft – manned or unmanned
* Maximum airspeed of 100 mph
* Maximum altitude of 500 feet above ground level
* No operations are allowed in Class A airspace
* No person can operate more than one unmanned aircraft at one time
* No operations from a moving vehicle or aircraft, except from a watercraft on the water.
* No careless or reckless operations.
* Requires preflight inspection by the operator
* A person may not operate a UAV if they have a mental or physical condition affecting their ability
* Operators must pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA approved knowledge testing center
* Pass a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test every 24 months
* Make available to FAA upon request the UAV inspection or testing and any associated documents/records required
* Report an accident to the FAA within 10 days of any operation that results in injury or property damage
* Conduct a preflight inspection to include specific aircraft and control station systems checks
And the list goes on.
So, now lets make a comparison of another operational practice that has some inherent danger. Wild land burning.
One would think that something as dangerous as lighting a fire to burn off heavy grass and timbers would have similar rules to those lawmakers are establishing for UAVs. But, other than wind restrictions (which some still ignore) there’s minimal rules. In some localities there are no rules.
Every year fires get out of control and burn fence posts, shelter belts, barns, and houses. Worse yet sometimes those burning and those putting out the burning – aka firefighters – suffer injury, some minor and some major. Death is not uncommon.
So, what’s the point of this writing? Lawmakers need to invoke some safety requirements upon UAVs, but not make those rules so restrictive that it seriously hampers the evolution of usage.
And maybe the locals can use some of the same proposed UAV rules to make intentional wild land burning safer.
Steve Rhodes is a leader in the area of unmanned aircraft – aka drones. He recently launched a website dedicated to this topic. Here’s the site description:
About Public Safety Flight
The Public Safety Flight website is dedicated to news, information, tips, and stories about the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), UAVs, aircraft, and drones in the fire service, law enforcement, and emergency medical services. The site was founded by Steve Rhode, an FAA licensed pilot, experienced UAS pilot, and journalist. Steve also works closely with fire departments and others to develop this cutting-edge technology.
Here’s his website link: http://psflight.org/97/drone-news-october-20-2014-vague/
Rhodes recently filed an FAA commercial request to operate. Information is explained below concerning that request along with a request for comments in support. Consider giving your comments too if you agree.
FAA Exemption Open for Comment
From: Steve Rhode
To: Steve Moody
Oct 20 (1 day ago)
Well I have made some progress with the FAA. See http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FAA-2014-0799-0002
It would be very helpful to move this process forward if you could click on the comment now button and comment in support of my exemption application.
The big FAA concerns are if the UAS will be operated safely. You can reinforce I hold a FAA private pilot certificate and am well aware of flight safety, airspace safety and communicating with aircraft and controllers.
Also, you could comment about the positive uses of an Unmanned Aircraft System in fire department work.
My request was to fly for the following reason:
Description of Relief Sought: The petitioner is seeking an exemption to operate unmanned aircraft systems with a maximum weight of less than 55 pounds to perform public safety operations with fire departments, ambulance services, emergency medical service operations, and search and rescue agencies in order to provide real-time operational assistance in emergency operations.
Trying to recall exactly how a fire appeared upon arrival is somewhat difficult. There are a hundred different things going on when firefighters arrive and a hundred different tasks to be performed.
A couple new pieces of equipment will help with this problem. They are called “Helmet Cams.” A small camera attached to a firefighter’s helmet.
In our case we bought two cameras. They were placed on helmets with a special shield ~ EL DORADO FIRE – FIRECAM.
One helmet/cam has been placed on each of the engines – one for each of the first-in crews.
These news tools will help us with:
– Fire investigation
– Public education/prevention
Check out this recent video of a multi-structure fire to see how it works.
First, the footage was looked at from a fire investigation standpoint. We can help identify the area of the fire with the greatest intensity. Where and how the structures are burning. Is there anything notable that we can see that might have later been consumed by the fire?
Second, how can this video be used to educate the public. An earlier story identified there were 7 career paid and 11 reserve/resident unpaid on scene. What wasn’t told was there were just 3 firefighters initially on scene – for a number of minutes. The additional firefighters came in their personal vehicles – arriving later.
With just three firefighters – We “Assumed Command, Stretched a 5″ hydrant line/hooked and charged it, Pumped the water from the truck, Stretched a 2 1/2″ hand line with nozzle, Stretched a 1 3/4″ hand line with nozzle, Stopped the progress of the fire to the home that was lived in, Stopped the progress of the fire to the uninhabited home, Stopped the progress of the fire in double-car garage with two cars, and more.
And, how about those holes the firefighters cut in the roof? Well, watch the video because that was where the incoming firefighters came into the mix – as well as the initial firefighters continuing onward. The video shows extensive fire in the attic. What even the video doesn’t show is there are walls in the attic that keep firefighters from simply cutting one hole and completely extinguishing the entire fire. Old insulation, wooden shingle leftovers, dried-out 1 x 6” horizontal decking, are just some of the attic unseens.
Third, the video will help us to examine what we did and how we did it. This will afford all El Dorado firefighters with real-life examples of what we can and do accomplish. We can also add in variables that weren’t part of the real life incident.
Fourth, we can plan for the future. Live video is just one more method used to improve our operation. Continuous improvement.
Larger fire departments with practically unlimited staff would say that “it can’t be done.” El Dorado Firefighters prove that it can be done – but not easily and not without limitations of how much can be done until others arrive.