Commercial UAV Expo Europe: Public Service Drone Stories fro…

The public service sector is one of the fastest growing verticals for the commercial drone industry.  As departments invest in drone technology – and train more and more of their personnel to use them – the use cases for drones are continually expanding.  At today’s public service sector sessions of Commercial UAV Expo Europe in Amsterdam, DRONELIFE heard use cases from around the world.

In England, the Lincolnshire Police Department serves a smaller rural community where drones are being used for good.  Kevin Taylor of the Lincolnshire Police shared some of the areas where they are being successful with drones – and his stories were inspiring.  Taylor highlighted some of the successes that public service departments have had with drones.

  • In a dramatic rescue, drones were used to locate an unconscious victim that had wandered off and collapsed in a ditch some distance from an accident scene that took place on a rainy night;
  • Drones were used for crowd control at an unruly biker event;
  • Drones assisted police to locate rape victims and the perpetrator via thermal imaging;
  • Drones provide an overview of the accident scene in fatal road accident investigations;
  • Police used drones equipped with thermal imaging to locate a cannabis farm, uncovering not only 50,000 lbs of cannabis but also the human slaves who were being used to tend the crop;
  • Drones were of critical assistance in finding and managing the process of removing WW2 mustard gas – also helping to keep people away.

In this last example, Kevin Taylor noted that police  “did not have a standard procedure for removing a chemical weapon from water,” so it was a learning experience for all, where drones played a major role.

Next up was the Scottish Search and Rescue, a volunteer organization that finds lost hikers.

David Wright and Tom Nash spoke about how they were able to move from a feasibility study on if drones could help with their mission,  to deploying drones throughout the mountains of Scotland.  The organization uses three person teams:  A pilot and sensor adviser who help understand the data, and a tactical adviser that helps to manage resources.

Tom Nash says that the approach works well. “One reason why it has worked well is that that [the teams] had a variety of skills that came together,” he says, noting: “Mountain rescues are very different from other types of rescue,  We are more like a mountain rescue team from the Alps than from the flatlands of other parts of the UK.”

Lastly, Darshan Divakaran of the North Carolina Department of Transportation,  showed how drones provided useful footage of crash scenes.  Traditionally, this process would take 2-3 hours, using 6-7 fixed points to photograph the crash scene.  Using drones and modeling solution Pix4D, they were able to take “5-6 minutes flights and stitch them together to create a 3-d image.”  Clearing roads more quickly after accidents can save communities significant expense – and be a service to the community.

The team has been able to demonstrate success – and then to perform skills transfer for other public service areas.  “We have been successful in helping various divisions: we’ve built up trust over time.”

That trust does take time – and proof of successful use cases.  As more agencies utilize drones and tell their stories, more communities will benefit.

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