Aerospace & Defence

How are drones saving lives?

21st December 2021
Kiera Sowery

The use of drones is becoming increasingly common. Specifically, drones are being used by the emergency services to save lives. Electronic Specifier takes a closer look at the role drones play in saving lives across the globe.

Search and rescue

A key application of drones is within search and rescue. Drones can be used within disasters to identify the cause, or to find people who are stranded and need rescuing. To maximise chance of survival, it is vital that missing persons are found as soon as possible.

Natural disasters and explosions cause chaos, and devastation. Drones allow emergency services to access difficult to reach, high risk areas more safely.

As well as in disaster scenarios, drones can be used to locate missing persons.

Thermal imaging cameras are often used on drones for these types of search and rescue missions. This helps to improve accuracy and provides a safer alternative to sending rescue helicopters for example.

Surveillance and awareness

The compact size of drones allows them to be deployed in places that are difficult to be accessed by people on the ground, or by helicopters. This makes them suitable for providing surveillance and awareness in different situations. They therefore help emergency services to assess the scale and impact of a disaster.

Drones can provide real time data in hard-to-reach areas, and for high risk incidents. This makes them suitable for surveillance and awareness. For example, drones can observe to help assess what direction a flood is heading, and predict what infrastructure might be at risk, helping rescue teams to prioritise who is best to evacuate. Furthermore, aerial images can be analysed to map out an evacuation plan.

In addition, drones can be deployed to assess a situation, and keep watch for trouble. In a highly populated scenario, such as a riot, sporting event or festival, drones can provide real-time surveillance, the same way they do in an emergency. Drones can therefore replace some of the security in place on the ground.

Drones can also aid when it comes to inspecting infrastructure after an incident, providing situational awareness. This ensures repairs can take place more rapidly and safely as nobody needs to step foot in an unsafe site. Images of the damage can be communicated to relevant authorities without the need for emergency services to enter the infrastructure. Similarly, drones are being used within the construction industry, aiding the inspection of buildings and sites to ensure safety and check progress.

Aerial images of drones allow the true scale and impact of a situation to be assessed. Aerial images can then be used together with existing maps to build up a better picture of the area.

Technology advancements will enable drones to be able to alleviate some devastation caused by natural disasters and become even more of a valuable tool for the emergency services.

A real-life example of where drones have aided surveillance is the Notre-Dame fire in Paris. Two drones provided an overview of the disaster. The drones provided real time video footage to firefighters on the ground, helping to coordinate efforts to contain and extinguish the fire. The drones were able to detect areas that were burning and predict the path of the fire, allowing firefighters to be sent in accordingly and hoses to be positioned in the correct places.

Delivering supplies

Aircraft and satellites can help map the devastation caused by disasters, drones provide an alternative, more cost effective, efficient, and safer solution.

After disaster strikes, traditional lines of communication and delivery are often inaccessible. Therefore, drones come into play to re-establish communication and deliver essential items, including food, water, and medical equipment.

What will the future hold?

Drones within the emergency services ultimately are used to reduce risk to human life, provide added intelligence to unknown situations and make the services more efficient. As technology advances, specifically AI, sensors and camera quality, drone applications within the emergency services will only improve. Who knows what the future will hold?

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