The Future of Fire and Safety with Drones

Rosenbeaur Drone Firefighters
Firefighters have long braved hair-raising and dangerous situations, combating fires and saving lives. But, while this has been the norm for years— it no longer has to be with drones. The idea of rushing into unknown hazards and danger is what drones are here to change and improve fire and safety.

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Fire and Safety with Drones

The addition of a drone to the fire department’s toolkit has the potential to save lives, both civilians and firefighters. First responders and firefighters have long contended with a lack of situational awareness and limited visibility. The introduction of a drone gives these personnel unparalleled vision into fires and the ability to establish situational awareness quickly and effectively.

When drone technology is used in the field, firefighters are able to find the source of a fire more efficiently. This information is crucial to stopping the fire before it has an opportunity to spread further, killing or injuring more people. It can also provide insight into how quickly the fire is spreading, allowing firefighters to prepare for their response accordingly. The visibility that drones provide plays a vital role in preventing the fire from spreading and growing into an even greater blaze.

When it comes to fires, the sooner first responders arrive on site, the better. This is especially true when lives are at stake. Drones can help improve response time by providing crucial information about the scene before emergency crews arrive. With this information, firefighters can strategically plan their approach and ensure that they are fully prepared for what they are walking into.

Having situational awareness is critical in any situation. For firefighters, it can be the difference between life and death. By having a clear understanding of their surroundings, firefighters are able to make better decisions and take appropriate action when necessary.

Drones can help improve situational awareness by providing a birds-eye view of the scene. This information is crucial in helping firefighters understand the layout of the building or area they are responding to. With this information, they can plan their approach and identify any potential hazards.

Rosenbeaur Drone Firefighters - DJI Mavic
DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced is compact and yet powerful drone

Drones can also be used to provide information about the environment surrounding the fire. For example, if there is a dangerous chemical involved, drone footage can help first responders understand the extent of the hazard and take appropriate action.

But perhaps the most significant benefit of drones is the ability to find and neutralise the source of the fire quickly and efficiently— this ultimately saves more lives, both civilian and first responders, and helps minimise property damage and prevent injuries from occurring. When staring into a blazing inferno or a plume of thick smoke, it is incredibly challenging to look through and gain a comprehensive understanding of the situation. The thermal sensor on drones can help in these scenarios.

Thermal vision is an essential tool for firefighters as it allows them to see in dark and smoky conditions. With thermal vision, firefighters can locate people and objects that would be otherwise hidden. Thermal vision also helps firefighters identify the source of a fire. By being able to see the heat coming from a fire, firefighters are able to extinguish it more quickly. While drones have many advantages, let’s look at some of the disadvantages of not using drones. One of the disadvantages is that it can be difficult for firefighters to be content with low visibility and low light situations. On the other hand, a drone’s added visibility can provide insight into challenging conditions. This also plays a role when assessing a large area or a huge crowd.

One such disadvantage is that it can be difficult for firefighters to locate people or objects in a building that is filled with smoke. With a drone, firefighters are able to see clearly in dark and smoky conditions, which gives them an advantage when trying to locate people or objects. When you don’t have drones on your side, you may not have a complete assessment of the situation and so run into unknown hazards that can jeopardize the entire mission. One of the more significant disadvantages is the slower response times. While the ground fire and rescue team faces unexpected situations en route, a drone can fly ahead to collect data and establish situational awareness, reducing the response time to an emergency.

Thermal on Mavic 2
Thermal sensor view from DJI drone helps firefighters identify the heat spot in smoky conditions

But what about helicopters? There are multiple reasons why drones are better than a helicopter for firefighting. Firstly, the drone is much more agile and can fly in tighter spaces than a helicopter. Second, a drone is considerably cheaper when compared to a helicopter. The price of one helicopter flight is often comparable to the price of buying a drone itself. And finally, I know I keep mentioning this, but it’s well worth it- thermal. Thermal sensors that can be operated from a helicopter are expensive because their effective range needs to be high enough to capture accurate data from the helicopter (which has to fly further away than a drone). While having an eye in the sky is invaluable, it certainly feels a lot better to be paying less for it.

One of the most important aspects of drone in Fire and Safety is, of course, the safety it provides for firefighters. Drones give firefighters a much better view of their surroundings, allowing them to plan their approach and navigate dangerous areas more safely. Additionally, drones can be used to assess the situation and identify any potential hazards, which can help prevent injuries and save lives. In cases where there is no safe way for firefighters to approach a fire, mission control can use drones to deliver essential supplies and equipment to the scene. Overall, drones play a crucial role in safeguarding the lives of firefighters.

During investigations, drones are a crucial source of information and evidence. For example, a drone can be used to capture images of the incident scene from different angles, which can help identify the cause and accelerants. Additionally, drones can be equipped with sensors to detect hazardous materials, allowing investigators to assess the scene safely. Finally, in cases where it is not safe or possible to send people in to investigate, drones can be used to collect data and evidence that would otherwise be unavailable.

Rosenbeaur Drone Firefighters - DJI M300
DJI M300 RTK became one of the best choices for firefighters around the world

To find out more, we interviewed Florian Haslehner, Head of Digital Solutions at Rosenbauer— here is the transcript from that interview.

Q1. Can you tell us about Rosenbauer

Rosenbauer is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of firefighting equipment and vehicles.

Our DNA is in the firefighting business, on the other hand, we are entering with our digital solutions for other emergency response organisations like police forces and military projects.

Q2. How do you use drones to help firefighters?

With DJI drones, the exclusive partnership we have in the digital area, we want to support firefighters with a lot of difference — hints on how to actually manage and control a mission.

And connected with drones as our flying visual sensors ,we have a large new field of operations when it comes to mission management, some people call it battle management. Of course, increasing situational awareness is what we want to do.

What we do with our customers, obviously we do business cases where we compare drones to helicopters. Like an hour of the helicopter is almost the cost of one drone. Drones can partially replace or enhance the operation.

Q3. How important is it to have an additional type of sensor like Infrared or Thermal?

That is very important, to be very honest at the moment, how we use drones— Like, 80% of what we do is based on visual data that we collect. Heat sensors & of course infrared cameras are becoming more important.

Our customers want to get used to a drone as a system itself. Maybe, start with a smaller drone like a Mavic drone, which used to be the entry drone level for enterprise. And as soon as they get used to the instrument, we will see this much more often and the need for newer sensors will increase.

Q4. If you had to pick a favorite feature or the most valuable feature from DJI’s M-300 RTK, what would it be?

Definitely the readiness for our operators or our needs, because it’s completely ready for severe weather conditions. It is a very stable system and has a very powerful camera. We just love how it behaves, and it’s easy to learn.

Q5. Do you think that Drones are a toy, a luxury tool or a need-to-have

I definitely want to point out that it’s not a toy, many people, when they talk about drones, they look at the smaller smize, they think okay how can I use it, what’s the value-added? Is super expensive for that- that is definitely not the case. But the price itself makes it a little bit of a luxury tool.

On the other hand, when you really have it integrated in your operations, you see that it is becoming more and more a question of “how can I not have a drone” you know. And this is what we love to see in the future, especially with our integration with our other digital solutions.

Q6. What are you most excited about in 2022?

What I see coming in 2022 is the digitalisation of our niche business. We are a little late, but it’s getting more important. This is a great chance for us to have an answer ready when compared to our direct competitors, which come from the vehicle business. We are a little bit ahead, we are the only one that has a global presence, we have local competitors who have bigger footprint in their home countries but we want to serve our customers and we want to work on a global level. And so we also need to be ahead of trends and there are markets that are more mature , and they are expecting things like this (drones) at our booths.

The addition of drones to a firefighter’s arsenal brings tremendous value in the way of improving response times, reducing mission hazards and dangers, increasing visibility and saving lives. With drone technology becoming more advanced and affordable, it is likely that drones will become an integral part of firefighting operations in the near future.


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