Belgian communications and connectivity specialist Citymesh has announced the launch of what it calls the world’s first nationwide network of public safety drones ready to begin onsite data collection and reconnaissance work as soon as 911 calls come in for police and firefighter help.
Citymesh says each of 35 designated Belgian priority zones are being equipped with two strategically positioned nested drone platforms that will allow UAVs to quickly reach emergency sites after 911 calls come in. Once there, they’ll start transmitting imagery allowing police and firefighting squads to assess evolving situations and prepare the best responses.
That visual data will be captured and relayed by 4K high-definition and thermal sensors, and will be enhanced by artificial data applications that can detect and focus in on smoke plumes, areas on fire, and the presence and movement of people. That visual assessment assistance, as well as the remote piloting of network drones, will be ensured by strong and reliable 5G communications services Citymesh provides.
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Creation of the SENSE Belgian public safety drone system arose from smaller trial projects in 2018 that used UAVs to help firefighters and police respond to 911 calls – of which national emergency centers receive about 2 million annually. Those tests led to a municipal version of the system to be introduced in Genck in mid-2022, which is now being extended as a nationwide network.
“By scaling up the number of safety drones to 70, we want to create a drone grid across Belgium as a tool for emergency services,” says Hans Similon, general manager of Citymesh’s UAV program. “This doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world, which is kind of crazy. By leading in that way, Belgium’s intelligent city will become an intelligent nation, with drones-in-a-box solutions available in each of the 35 emergency zones. Citymesh really believes in this project, which can literally save lives.”
Though pilots will be on hand to navigate Citymesh drones once aloft, the Belgian system is designed to automatically send nested UAV into action as soon as calls come in and identify localities requiring police or firefighter intervention. Collection of data and details of evolving emergencies for the first 15 minutes after alerts are made is considered critical to effective response.
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Drones in Citymesh’s SENSE system will be flown within uncrewed traffic management systems overseeing respective emergency zones, with navigation and data transmission carried out by the company’s 5G tech.
“SENSE sits at the intersection of those three fields of knowledge – 5G, drones, and emergency services,” says Citymesh CEO Mitch De Geest, himself a trained firefighter. “It is therefore only a logical step for Citymesh to immediately launch the world’s first drone grid to support emergency services, following our pilot project. In that way, my biggest passions are coming together as one.”