Thursday 27 October 2016

Fire brigade set to introduce drones for emergencies

Fire crews at the scene of a major fire at the Oxigen recycle plant in Ballymount
Fire crews at the scene of a major fire at the Oxigen recycle plant in Ballymount
Wheatfield Prison

Dublin Fire Brigade (DFB) could be using drones to assess major fires and for other emergency events in the near future.

The emergency service is currently researching the use of the remote-controlled craft, also known as quadcopters, for major incidents in what have been described as "interesting times ahead" for the service.

It is believed members of the DFB will soon receive training in how to use the craft.

The DFB would be the first Irish emergency service to introduce the use of drones, following in the steps of several US states who have adopted regulations on their use.

The introduction of drones could offer a great opportunity to assess information from significant incidents and large-scale events, providing additional information to fire services.

While the use of drones has been supported for their ability to do tasks more efficiently, concerns have also been raised over surveillance, safety and privacy issues.

Drones have already been introduced by fire authorities in Boston.

Robert Reardon, a fire captain in the city, said that his crews could use a drone to help search for someone missing in the water or lost in the woods, and it would also be helpful in assessing storm damage.

"What it can offer is tremendous. We're looking forward to having this technology," he told the Boston Globe.

The department decided to purchase drones for operational purposes after they were successfully implemented by the Brewster Ambulance Service.

Dublin Fire Brigade confirmed on its Twitter account that it was researching the use of such drones here, in response to the report about the experience in Boston.

The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) defines drones as "any aircraft and its associated elements, other than a balloon, kite or small aircraft which is intended to be operated with no pilot on board".

In Ireland, small drones (under 20kg) can generally be used non-commercially if kept below 120 metres in altitude, within 500 metres from the operator and at least 150m away from anyone else or any "structure or vehicle".


They cannot be used "over any assembly of persons", in "congested" residential areas or near airports unless special permission is granted. The IAA also suggests that third party insurance be taken out when purchasing one.

Irish criminals have also exploited the technology, with one gang using the device to try to transport drugs into a prison last year.

The drone, valued at around €2,000 crash landed in an exercise yard in Wheatfield Prison last year.

It knocked against a wire in place over the yard to prevent real helicopters from landing and crashed to the ground.

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