Public Safety: The Future of the UAS Industry

This year as I entered InterDrone in Las Vegas, NV, there was a subtle undertone and initially unspoken energy throughout the event. With the recency of Hurricane Henry in Texas and the approaching landfall of Irma in Florida, you could see some of the attendees were distracted. Due to the national audience of the event, many of the attendees had family, friends, and their homes in mind. However, even though the natural tendency could be to dwell in fear and anxiety, the conference kicked off with presentations on solutions rather than fear.

Law Enforcement, Fire, and Emergency Response

The very first session I attended was aptly named, “Opportunities for Law Enforcement, Emergency Response, and Search and Rescue.” Within the initial five minutes, it was made apparent that this is the future of UAS. By a showing of hands, over 40% of the room was from areas of public safety and 90% of those had some form of a UAV program. This is a huge step in the right direction compared to previous years in which the use of drones for public safety was still in its infancy.

Throughout the session, each panelist brought different perspectives and experiences from the field in using UAV for public safety. The panel was composed of:

  • Wayne Baker, Fire Chief in Joshua, TX
  • Trooper Ross Miller, Nevada Highway Patrol
  • Allen Beach of Argus Rising
  • Romeo Durscher, Director of Education at DJI

What was revealed through the panel was that currently there is no one use of UAVs in public safety, but rather that UAVs are a major part of the solution. Chief Baker stated that as a result of UAVs, they are, “able to get into the air [with a drone] within one minute of arrival on site [a fire incident].” This is essential in saving lives of people potentially trapped in a fire and managing risk for fire crews. Trooper Miller is currently using the technology to evaluate accident scenes and reopen highway’s quicker which is important for commerce. The remaining panelists reiterated the importance of UAVs and mentioned the need for UAV use pre-incident to be better prepared for rebuilding, response, and relief efforts.

Emergency Response Demo with Yuneec and Nevada Highway Patrol

On the second day of the conference, the theme of public safety continued with an early morning demonstration by Yuneec and the Nevada Highway Patrol. In the demo, Trooper Ross Miller discussed the difference in timing and processing between traditional accident response and accident response with a UAV. Not only did this demo reveal the significant financial investment needed for traditional methods but it also revealed a huge flaw. With the traditional technology, it could take ten times longer to evaluate a scene when compared to using a UAV. That’s, “basically six minutes versus sixty,” stated a Yuneec representative. In my opinion, we cannot afford to stay in the past when real time-saving and potentially lifesaving options are available.

For a full view of the demo, watch this short video capture.

Disaster Response and the Future

With both Henry and Irma, the focus on disaster relief and emergency response efforts were palpable. As I talked with exhibitors and fellow attendees, many were making plans to aid in the disaster relief efforts with their UAVs. Whether they were a civil servant or drone pilot, everyone wanted to help. In the coming weeks, I anticipate that even though they may not get the press or recognition they deserve, the UAV professionals will make a significant impact as we recover from not one but two natural disasters.

The biggest takeaway from this year’s event is that by embracing technology advancements such as UAVs, we can create efficiency, simplicity, and potentially save lives. So, if your city or county hasn’t begun the process of researching, testing, and implementing this technology, now is the time!