Emergency Drone Operations

Emergency Drone Operations

Emergency Drone Operations
All photos courtesy Suavair

There were a number of educational sessions at Campbell River’s 2019 Disaster Preparedness Trade Show. One of the most exciting was Emergency Drone Operations. 

Colin Filliter, Operations Manager of Suavair,  agreed to record his presentation for Cortes Currents.

“I have been using drones since 2014. When they technology first came out, I thought there would be an application for them in forestry and in mining – not just making cool Youtube videos. My goal was to make a career out of using drones.”

“Most of my work has been within forestry and mining. We do work for environmental local and provincial government. 90% of my flights have been related to natural resources, bit I have done a bit of search and rescue and trying to apply stuff to emergencies as they come up.” 

“I’m based in Campbell River on Vancouver Island and its a good spot, I like living there, but I have also got to travel all over the province using the drone.” – Colin Filliter,

Environmental Monitoring
Drones can make fast accurate assessments of situations
Emergency Drone Operations
Using a Drone to plot out evacuation routes

Emergency Drones Operations

  • A good drone costs about the same amount as renting a helicopter for a day
  • Drones allow you to see wide areas very fast and very accurately. Examples: when two men disagreed as to whether there were 15 or 17 elk ahead, they sent the drone up to take a picture and found out there were 21 elk. Three examples of drones finding lost people, using heat signature technology, are mentioned in the podcast
  • Drones are excellent for finding hot spots in wild fire situations
  • In flooding situations, earthquakes and oil spills: drones can be used to quickly access the situation and find out where there are people who need to be rescued.
  • The NYPD used a drone to monitor the suspect’s location when using tear gas in a hostage situation.  
  • Plans are also useful for emergency planning, such as where to establish evacuation routes.  
  • Thanks to GPS tracks, you can see where your drone has flown and this helps you know where to fly next.  
Emergency Drone Operations
Drone over a fire fighting crew

Limitations To Drone Operations

  • There will always be a need for boots on the ground as first responders and to verify what the drones have seen
  • You cannot operate drones in heavy rain or fog. Winds over 50 km will blow drones off course. 
Colin Filliter at the Suavair booth, 2019 Disaster Preparedness Tradeshow

Drone Operators Need To Be Certified

  • Basic Pilot – take an online test to get your license. You cannot fly near an airport or within 100 feet of the public.  
  • Advanced Pilot – the written test is more rigorous and you also have to go out with an advanced reviewer who will watch you fly, ask questions and evaluate your ability. Pilots with advanced certification can fly in more spaces, including near or over the public.
  • There are courses you can take to learn 

In the podcast, Colin Filliter gives a number of tips to people who want to become drone operators.   

The program above was part of the Cortes Currents broadcast on Cortes Radio, CKTZ 89.5 FM at 9 AM October 23, 2019 and again 5 PM on October 29, 2019. 

4 thoughts on “Emergency Drone Operations”

  1. This article was worth reading. Using drones for emergency operations is one of the brighter sides of aerial technology. I’m not denying the limitations & risks involved in using drones for such uses, but the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. The drones here https://mydeardrone.com/types/drones-with-camera/ that come with HD cameras provide real-time video feed, longer flight times so you could make better decisions in a do-or-die situation.

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