Drone Helps Keep North Stonington Firefighters Out Of Harm’s Way
Add North Stonington to the list of municipalities employing drones to their public safety arsenal.
In a town marked by 56 squares miles, zeroing in on trouble spots can be akin to looking for a needle in a haystack.
"Eight months earlier, we drove all over town looking for a column of smoke,” Fire Chief Charles Steinhart V says. “If you had a drone, you could drive it toward the column of smoke instead of searching blind," Steinhart said.
The North Stonington Volunteer Fire Department acquired the quacopter – a four-propeller drone - a few months ago. So far it has been used only once. It was deployed on a search-and-rescue mission high above the heavily forested Lantern Hill. The person was later found in a different area, but having the eyes in the sky “kept firefighters out of the woods.”
Outfitted with two landing skids, the drone also has the capability of hauling lifesaving equipment to the scene of an incident. A drone carrying a rope and floatation device can get equipment to a water rescue scene faster than it takes to transport and prepare a boat.
Quickly into the sky back to top
The high-definition camera can rotate 360 degrees and send live stream video to an iPad. And it’s quick, too. It can go from the box to the sky in under three minutes. It can also be recalled quickly. The operator can hit a button and the drone will fly back and land where it took off. It’s not a toy, but in some cases it operates like one.
"If you can play a video game, you can fly one," Steinhart said.
Eventually, the North Stonington Fire Department wants to add infrared capability to the drone to be able to pick up thermal patterns on the ground.
"It's all about firefighter safety," Steinhart said. "If I can put a drone in a hazardous area and keep guys out of there, it's a better way of doing things."