New Aerial Drone Technology Takes Off

Aerial drone technology trial commenced to improve situational awareness, support effective decision-making and enhance operational response.



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Published on 4 May 2021

A short time ago in a galaxy not so far away… six state-of-the-art drones began their maiden voyage to further enhance and support West Midlands Fire Service’s (WMFS) incident response.

Building on our dedication to innovate and develop our services, its apt that on the official Star Wars Day (4 May), WMFS announced it’s intention to begin utilising fantastic new aerial drone technology.

We have Operational Authority from the Civil Air Authority to carry out UAS Drone operations and from today will commence a 12-month drone capability trial.

Over the next few months, the six M2ED drones will capture vital aerial video footage and high resolution still images from above an incident scene, to improve situational awareness, support effective decision-making and enhance the operational response currently provided.

Twelve fire officers have received the necessary training to pilot the drones, which will be mobilised around the clock to a wide range of incidents, requiring more than four fire engines.

Each drone has a battery that provides 30-minutes flight time, can fly at a maximum height of 400ft and in sustained wind speeds of 24 mph and operate in temperatures between -10°C and 40°C.

Built-in thermal imaging cameras will also be instrumental in identifying any heat sources, giving firefighters on the ground essential information to extinguish the fire safely.

One of the drones was recently utilised at the Sparkbrook Factory fire that saw 22 fire engines and over 100 firefighters in attendance.

Steve Vincent, Strategic Enabler - Operations, Preparedness and Response, said:

“This is a really exciting project for us and forms part of our commitment to utilise digital technology and innovation to enhance the excellent service we provide to our communities.

“We recognise the far-reaching benefits that drone technology can bring to operational response. We know that the early use of drones at incidents can potentially improve the situational awareness of incident Commanders and other roles. They can also support effective decision-making and improve safety not only of our firefighters but our partner agencies and members of the public too.

“This 12-month trial will identify further opportunities to identify and mitigate risk within our communities.”

Going forward, the drones will also provide information for fire investigation, intelligence and information gathering and for debrief and training purposes. The equipment may also be used to support other multi agency situations such as aircraft crashes, road traffic collisions, rail crashes and floods and help identify hazards to people, responders, animals, property and the environment.