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Fire Service Drones


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We have been using drones for the last few years and it is now being mobilised almost daily to assist at live incidents and for post incident video. 

Who has them in their Service and what applications are they being used for?

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We don't (as far as I'm aware) but we should.  They must be invaluable at certain incidents and for the price I am amazed that they aren't used by every FRS in the country.

Its a (relatively) cheap technology which I am sure will become more and more common as time goes by.

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Believe there are a few over in the North West now with GMC and Lancashire.  

When I was at the NEC last September I was looking at the ones on show there, they are not cheap for the decent ones to get the quality you need.  The home use ones are not badly priced but professional ones the prices goes up.  Nice bit of kit can it be justified these days?

Does anyone's aerial still have cameras on them for use to survey the incident ground?

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I think our drone cost £4000. Ironically it was used today at a building collapse. If you are on twitter type in Pottersbarfire. You can see the quality of the images

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In true fashion, GMFRS paid well over £4k and in fact spent over £50k on a drone. Sorry, I get my arse kicked if I call it a drone, its the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Air Unit. You can read more about it here. There are 100s of videos on YouTube etc of it in action and they usually through an image or 2 on the news when theres a decent job on. 

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5 hours ago, Matt said:

When I was at the NEC last September I was looking at the ones on show there, they are not cheap for the decent ones to get the quality you need.  The home use ones are not badly priced but professional ones the prices goes up.  Nice bit of kit can it be justified these days?

Yes I believe that they can be justified, when you look at the £££'s spent by various FRS's on pointless initiatives and other things.  

For a more than decent overview of an incident you can get a perfectly suitable drone for much much less than the £4000 quoted, which will give you HD recordings and photos of an incident.

Drones have a place in the FRS and the bank does not need to be broken to obtain one or two.

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£50k!!  Saw GMFRS coming there! 

I'm not saying they cannot be justified, in fact they are a good bit of kit (I am into my photography).  Be interesting to see what criteria they are mobilised on.

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Do you have to carry out any training to fly the drones? Are you guys governed by the CAA or can you purchase one and start flying straight away?

We had Drones in work but they all got grounded until we did a week course with the CAA/MAA. 

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I'm no aviation expert but I'd bet a months salary that any FRS drone operative would need some sort of recognised qualification to operate them.

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Is there any national '999' drone procurement strategy?

I can see chief officers, chief constables and CEO of ambulance trusts all over the UK feeding their ego by ensuring their flying saucer is bigger, faster and shinier than their neighbours

As a taxpayer, I hope that somebody is keeping an eye on this to ensure value for money or else we will end up with scores of these boys toys sitting in their boxes for months and/or being bought out for inappropriate jobs just to justify their expense

Don't get me wrong, I am more than aware of the capabilities of a high spec drone and I am sure they are a huge asset to the fire service when needed - plus of course cheaper than a helicopter - I just hope someone is maintaining an overview (excuse the pun) of the costs 

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It's funny you mention the 50k figure Carl, this was exactly what was earmarked for ours before more sensible words were said in ears about the price. Can only wonder if they were looking at GMC for inspiration O.o

Ours cost about £3000, an off the shelf version as a proof of concept, and is soon to be replaced with a slightly larger version as its worked so well. It so happens I got to have a good look at ours between wears on Sunday at a 10 pump job and was very impressed. We technically share ours with the police, with two "pilots" each, but for various privacy policy reasons its used by the brigade 90 percent of the time , and has been useful for assisting the police with MisPer searches.

The current model can be programmed to fly to the exact same spot autonomously to take comparison pictures, with live feeds to screens in the CSU/freestanding TV. A downside is that thermal imaging and normal optical cameras have to be swapped manually between flights but the next model will have both capabilities.

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We have one with trained officers who fly it.  I think it is part of our DIM team? Its not out regularly but you often see it buzzing about at the larger jobs.

I have utilised a few times actually to check access points to a large sites. 

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Our drone was also out again yesterday to assist the police with missing persons. I will find out if the operators need a special license

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A friend of mine has a drone for his personal use as he enjoys photography. His drone was around £1800 - it is a 'Phantom 4 Pro'. 

It produces great quality video/photos and can fly up to around 7km away from the controller. Here is one of the videos he captured with it.

The only issue is it can only be used when the weather is just right - if it is too windy then it will be very hard to control. Also the battery life is not too amazing so it wouldn't work too well for long jobs.


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All GMFRS Pilots have to become qualified and complete the appropriate course. Those who know me also know I am also into my photography and have often looked at the drones. Im also a sucker for gadgets so no doubt will end up with something at some stage. I am led to believe that to fly it legally in public or at least over public you have to have the appropriate licence and qualifications? 

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The Emergency Services have to of been granted a 'permission' from the CAA. They range from about a week to a year and have various criteria that needs to be fulfilled before one is issued. I would imagine that having a recognised training programme and certification means would be enough to satisfy the CAA and as such a FRSs permission probably lasts a year.

It's all to do with where, how high and how close to buildings you intend to fly the drone/RPAS/UAV/Boys Toy/Call it what you like.

Any commercial use requires a permission and for somewhere such a London or Manchester where you have controlled airspace from surface level up you are also restricted. If you're looking into getting one for a bit of fun there will be loads of guides etc. on the CAA website.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Dublin have 2 and they have been used at various incidents. They are equipped with a live feed back to the ICU. DFB have 6 people trained to fly them and all have had to be licenced by the Irish Aviation Authority.

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A neighbouring brigade assisted us by using drones in the tragic Grenfall Tower high rise fire yesterday, I can't remember which brigade it was.

They definately have a place in the modern fire service and I'm sure (hope) that it's only a matter of time before they are used nationally.

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Our drone was offered up alongside 10 relief pumps on the afternoon of the first day. This was declined a few hours later as we do not have EDBA capability which the LFB had requested.

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  • 5 months later...

I am on a course that qualifies me to apply for permission to fly drones commercially at the moment.

I never knew the amount of work that needs to be done to get an RPAS into the sky! So much planning to get it done legally. Risk assessments, flight planning, knowledge of the area/drone/task, legal restrictions etc.

You have to do a certain amount of 'ground school' training (classroom-based), sit and pass a paper test, carry out a flight test and complete an operations manual. That's before getting insurance for commercial use then, apply to the CAA for permission to fly. 

It also costs a lot of money! 

There is an ex Firefighter on the course who works in fire safety investigation who is looking at using them.

We are doing it with these guys 

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