Will drones soon be answering 999 calls?

8th April 2016
Joe Bush

The number of drones employed by European emergency services could be on the rise following the European Emergency Number Association’s (EENA) annual conference in Prague, Czech Republic, this week.

Brussels-based EENA was established in 1999 as a non-governmental organisation and serves as a discussion platform for emergency services, public authorities, researchers, associations and solution providers, with the aim of improving the emergency response in accordance with citizens' requirements.

Emergency services across the continent are increasingly using drones for search and rescue missions, car accidents, chemical spills and fires, and the EENA has partnered with Chinese drone company, DJI to provide training for pilot teams and in the use of drone technology such as thermal imaging – this partnership could extend across other European organisations.

In an emergency situation such as a fire or mountain rescue scenario, a key issue is that in saving individuals in jeopardy, you have to risk the lives of other individuals – i.e. members of the emergency services.

While clearly drones are not capable of performing many tasks within an emergency situation they can provide vital information that aids in faster, smarter and better informed decision making, and can provide first responders with more detailed information from an aerial perspective. For example, Ireland's Donegal Mountain Rescue Team has been using advanced drone software to help coordinate search and rescue missions, and Denmark’s Greater Copenhagen Fire Department is being taught how to use drones to combat fires and chemical accidents.

With representatives from 1,200 emergency services across 80 countries on its books, the EENA is well placed to help develop a framework for drone operators in Europe. At the end of the programme EENA and DJI will share insights and best practices with the broader international emergency response community to promote the safe integration of drones in emergency situations.

Romeo Durscher, DJI's Director of Education commented: “Drones are transforming the way first response and civil protection missions operate. The technology is easy to deploy and can be used in dangerous situations without risking pilots’ lives. This ultimately saves lives and property.”

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