Drones reporting to duty as first responders in western Texas

drone first responder texas

The Odessa Police Department in western Texas says it has received authorization from the FAA to launch the largest public safety Drone as a First Responder (DFR) program in the United States. The department is now ready to conduct a year-long pilot program, exploring the advantages of an eye in the sky during public safety initiatives.

Drones as First Responders (DFR)

Using a drone as a first responder is a unique but highly successful concept in public safety, wherein a drone is sent to the location of a reported incident to stream live video; even before the first responders on the ground arrive on the scene, they have access to data that would allow them to make better decisions.

Many police departments say that they do not have enough officers. As such, the trial in Odessa will have a special emphasis on collecting and analyzing data on the cost savings of a DFR program, as well as the logistical implications of being able to clear lower priority calls using a drone that frees up officers to be ready for higher priority ones.

The Odessa Police Department has teamed up with Paladin Drones for this initiative. Both the police and the fire department will leverage Paladin’s LTE drone, the Knighthawk, which has qualified for Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations in Class C, E, and G airspace. For firefighters, one particular advantage that drones will offer is their ability to identify hotspots.

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Paladin says the Knighthawk is purposely designed to get to an emergency as fast as possible, stay on scene for as long as possible, and return home to get ready for the next call – all without pilot intervention. The weather-resistant drone is equipped with a 10x zoom and thermal camera. It delivers over 55 minutes of flight time with the payload.

Initially, five drones will power the Odessa DFR program. Using Paladin’s Watchtower autonomous DFR controls, streaming, and data management software, all five drones will be piloted from a computer in the police HQ, streaming live video feed to the first responders in need of better situational awareness.

The Odessa Police Department explains in a statement:

The drones will be piloted by trained Odessa Police and Odessa Fire Rescue personnel to gather key information prior to the first responders’ arrival. Our agency has seen time and time again, that time matters in a response to an emergency incident. Paladin’s Knighthawk drones will arrive on the scene prior to first responders and stream video directly to the personnel who need it the most. Ultimately this new technology will ensure that both the Odessa Police Department and Odessa Fire Rescue are efficiently and effectively responding to our community’s needs. 

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