Drones Go to Summer School

HorryStudents in a South Carolina County academic program received a firsthand view from above of how drones are changing the game for public-safety agencies.

This month, the Horry County Fire Rescue showcased the department’s drone program to a local middle school project, the Summer Scholars Program.

Part of an overall program to teach the principles of flight, the demonstration at the Academy of Arts Science and Technology taught students not only the science behind drone flight but also how UAVs can save lives.

“We brought a drone out here from Horry County Fire Rescue to show them the technology,” Summer Scholars teacher Nicole Furr said, adding that students learned “how the rotors work, what aspects keep it up in the air, as well as what job it does for the department, how they can use it to solve problems with their investigations and how it is used in everyday life.”

The Fire-Rescue Department applied for FAA approval in March to pilot its new DJI Phantom 3 in an effort to capture video footage of larger fires as well as aid in search-and-rescue and disaster evaluation efforts.

“We’ve submitted our application and we’re processing paperwork. It just takes time,” Capt. Matthew Rice said adding that the “potential return on a small investment like that is huge for us.”

“[Using the drone,] I can see how the fire progressed through the building,” Rice noted. “I can see if it radiated out from a certain point, and that just gives me more data when I’m processing my scene.”

Several other South Carolina agencies are seeking FAA approval for firefighting, police and SAR drones including the Myrtle Beach Police Department and Murrells Inlet-Garden City Beach Fire Department.

South Carolina Fire Association deputy director Jason Pope praised the growth of drone use. “Anything that gives a firefighter a better situational awareness is a good thing,” he said.

For Rice, exposing students to drone technology is an investment in the future. “Kids today are much more tech savvy than I was when I was growing up,” Rice said. “If they have a good interest in this, and where it goes, they’re going to shape the future of this technology and how it’s going to play into the rest of the world.”

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