Drone technology to give AF&RS a new perspective in responding to incidents

Firefighters in front of fire engine with new drone.Avon Fire & Rescue Service (AF&RS) has invested in new drone technology to assist in responding to fires, searching for missing people and supporting larger scale rescues.

Two new drones will be used to improve crew’s response to incidents including large fires, road traffic collisions and major incidents. Rescues from heights and on water will also benefit from a new vantage point gained by using drones.

Drone footage, with thermal and advanced imagery, will be streamed securely to incident commanders, on the ground and remotely, to inform effective decision making at the scene. The drones can be deployed into high risk environments and improve firefighter safety by identifying key risks and reduce deployment of firefighters into dangerous situations.

Dave Hodges, Temporary Area Manager, said: “We are really excited to see drone technology being implemented within the Service. This is an initiative that has never been in Service before and will undoubtedly prove advantageous in protecting our communities.

“The drones will be deployed to large fires and other incidents to give an area perspective to incident commanders. They will give us the ability to feed footage to our command units and other remote units to enable group commanders to observe incidents remotely.

“This is also a great opportunity for our on-call firefighters as the drones will be based at Portishead fire station, crewed by our on-call staff. Those involved with the initiative have gone above and beyond in their commitment to ensuring the success of this project.”

Sean Perry, Temporary Watch Manager B, Risk Intelligence Unit added: “The drones have HD camera capability with multiple functions – including a high zoom lens and thermal imaging. We will be using DJI M300 drones with the H20T camera payload.

“The thermal imaging camera can be used to assist at incidents where ordinarily fire crews wouldn’t be able to access and will provide support at large scale incidents by allowing a broader oversight of the scene.”

The team responsible for operating the drones recently completed their week long training course, where they learned how to operate the drones in assisting them in their response to fire and rescue incidents. The Team have also now been grated Operational Authority by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Steve Gadd, On-call Support Officer based at Portishead station, said: “The Service has recently purchased two drones, which have thermal capabilities and advanced imagery cameras. They will allow us to have that extra field of vision for larger scale incidents, searching for people and many other scenarios.

“It’s a huge piece of kit and we are really fortunate that Portishead station has been selected to store and operate the drones. It’s a privilege to be given this responsibility and trained up to learn how to fly and use the drones as safely as possible.”

Both drones will be based at Portishead fire station and will operate on an on-call basis.