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Drone technology is not just for the battlefield. Now, drones can also be used to help fight fires.
While drones are commonly used by the military for surveillance and dropping bombs, unmanned aerial systems are now being developed for much broader uses outside the military.
Take, for instance, Datron's 2.5-pound drone equipped with a camera “Scout.”
The Scout — which can fly above 1,500 feet and has a two-mile radius — can help firefighters do their job more safely and effectively, according to Orion Linekin of Datron.
“The scout is designed as a squad level solution for that soldier on the front line or that firefighter public safety officer on the front line to get immediate situational awareness,” Linekin told NBC San Diego in an exclusive interview.
The drone’s design makes it ideal for helping fight fires.
"Anytime we have an aerial view for the incident commander it helps us make operational decisions," said Cal Fire San Diego Capt. Mike Mohler.
From Santa Ana winds-driven wildfires — like those that sparked back in 2007 — to providing a rooftop view for structural fires, Capt. Mohler says drones like the Scout can be another tool to help firefighters prevent death and destruction.
“If it's a Santa Ana wind-driven fire, maybe the next affected neighborhood, but if we have an aerial drone up we can see the rate of spread and know that within a certain amount of time a certain neighborhood or community may be threatened,” added Mohler.
It's a simple system that can be flown right from a touchscreen tablet.
“Then we just climb by holding on to the altitude bar,” explained Linekin.
And the Scout’s size, and easy assembly, makes it ideal for on-scene commanders.
“There’s still going to be a need to bring in helicopter assets and water drop assets, but those take longer to get on scene. This is something that comes immediately out of the truck and, within five minutes, you can be looking at what you’ve got to deal with,” said Linekin.
A little drone, with a big picture, that can help save lives.
The Scout is being demonstrated for its use in assisting firefighters, and it's already been used in a HAZMAT situation.
For the aforementioned potential use in Santa Ana winds-driven fires like in 2007, the Scout can fly in sustained winds greater than 30 mph and has stayed airborne in gusts greater than 50 mph.