Drones: Safety Risk or Helpful Tool?
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Drones are becoming more and more common across our nation’s skies and the buzz isn’t just hundreds of feet in the air.
“For firefighting and for police work, for agriculture and for roof inspections and wedding videographers – you name it, you’re going to see them everywhere,” said Jim Bowers, founder of Swarm Network.
Three years ago, Jim Bowers of Colfax, California was asked to help a friend search for her missing fiancé.
“I had never been involved in a search and rescue before, but I couldn’t say no. We were able to narrow the search field down by about 40 miles using my drone,” he said.
Eventually, the drone found the dead body.
“The whole thing moved me so much emotionally that I decided I wanted to start a network of volunteer drone pilots,” said Bowers.
Now, the Swarm Network has over 3,500 volunteers all across the world.
Dennis Edwards, Assistant Chief of the Duluth Fire Department believes drones would offer search and rescue benefits in the Northland as well.
“There’s already been cases where a drone has taken life jackets to people who were stranded on a rock in the middle of a river.”
Edwards says they could help ensure firefighter safety.
“With a drone, not only could you be out of harm’s way and checking neighborhoods and streets, you could check conditions before we sent firefighters and other rescue personnel inside,” said Edwards.
But right now, as the technology is so new and unregulated, it poses potential problems.
“In the western fires this year, we’ve already seen where the drones have grounded firefighting aircraft,” said Edwards.
Not only could drones interfere with a firefighting effort, but they could be dangerous to firefighters and pilots.
“If your drone could be hit by a fire stream, then you’re way too close,” said Edwards.
Edwards knows there are certain things that will always stay the same, but is optimistic that a little change can go a long way.
“We’re still going to have to have firefighters dragging hoses inside of buildings and checking on conditions with their thermal engine cameras,” said Edwards.