After having used the DJI Matrice 210 for the first time in a training session earlier in the morning, the Halifax firefighters successfully used the unmanned aircraft in a search-and-rescue later that same day. On a dark and cold night in December the firefighters decided to send their new drone up one more time in their search for a missing person. The search had officially been called off, but the firefighters went ahead anyway. This time they used a different angle with their thermal camera and they found the semi-conscious man under a bridge. The man was picked up and rushed to the hospital. It was a turning point for the firefighters and they realized drones are much more than just a toy.

DJI Mavic Pro

Drones are more than just a toy

Chief Chuck Bezanson, the flight manager of the Halifax Regional Municipality Fire and Emergency drone program said in The Signal:

“I guess it’s up to anyone’s imagination what could have happened. There was an unconscious person, who had been in the environment for over three hours, laying on a cold, steel structure.”

Since the first search-and-rescue mission for the Halifax firefighters was a success, they now want a second drone as a backup. A tender request was put out on February 1st.

The DJI Matrice 210 with the thermal camera doesn’t come cheap and the firefighters have met some criticism to spend around $10,00 on yet another drone. However, Bezanson argues that drones help to keep his men safe. He said:

“Firefighters take risks. That’s what we do and that’s what the public pays us to do, but they don’t pay us to take risk unnecessarily,” said Bezanson.

The DJI Matrice 210 is not the first drone that the HRM Fire and Emergency had bought. Over the last two years, they had already obtained three other drones, but none of them are nearly as capable as the DJI Matrice 210, which can fly in almost all weather conditions.

“We’re about to really delve into some great technology and it’s going to be a turning point for the fire department and the services it’s going to be able to offer,” said Capt. Richard Sullivan, a Highfield Park firefighter trained to use drones.

Drones help to keep firefighters safe

The DJI Matrice 210 in combination Zenmuse XT2 is a powerful package indeed as it has both a thermal and a zoom camera. The drone can be used for other purposes as well such as reading labels on suspicious packages, hazardous materials or assist in finding the safest spots on the roof of a burning building.

Firefighters often go on the roofs of burning buildings to release smoke, said Bezanson. “Years gone by, we’ve gone on the roof and tapped it with an axe as we slowly moved along looking to see if it was soft. Well, sometimes they’re soft too quickly and people go through them.”

Dangerous situations like these can be prevented with the use of drones, said Bezanson.

The Halifax Fire was able to acquire four drones and train 18 firefighters to become Part 107 licensed drone pilots after the capital budget for drones was passed in July 2016. The DJI Matrice 210 is their most expensive drone. The fire department has said that they would love to see more accessories to become available for drones, such as an arm to hold or grab something

The drones are stored at the Highfield Park fire station in Dartmouth and are available for other nearby departments to be requested in emergency type situations.

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Photo: The Signal

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