Public-Safety Drones: South Korea Leads the Way

(Courtesy Korea Bizwire - used with permission)

(Courtesy Korea Bizwire – used with permission)

Drone use in South Korea is really taking off.

In March, government officials pledged ongoing support to the domestic drone industry in the hopes of capturing a share of the anticipated $150 billion drone market over the next decade.

The South Korean National Police Agency plans to use a squadron of drones to preserve crime scenes and find missing people under an agreement with Korea Land and Geospatial Informatix Corporation.

Now, public-safety agencies in the province of Gangwon Province say they want to deploy drones for search-and-rescue operations.

According to Korea Bizwire, the Gangwon Provincial Police Agency believes SAR drones will boost efforts to find a growing number of wandering Alzheimer’s patients.

“By dispatching drones to mountainous areas where manned search is more difficult, we’ll be able to shorten the time frame of our operations and decrease the risks of missing people facing unfortunate deaths,” a Gangwon official told Korea Bizwire.

In addition to SAR work, the Jeongseon County Fire Department has commissioned a drone rescue team to use at “dangerous sites like wildfire scenes, high-rise building fires, or factories with toxic leaks.”

“If we can implement thermographic cameras that can sense heat and body temperature, our rescue operations will become much more effective,” Jeongseon Fire Chief Lee Gi-jung said in an interview.

South Korea is making advances in domestic drone technology as well. The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology recently unveiled Fireproof Aerial Robot System (FAROS) to the firefighting world.

The drone system can not only detect fires in the tallest of skyscrapers, it can also search an engulfed building and transfer real-time data to human firefighters to build a better game plan for extinguishing a blaze. The sensor drones can also withstand blazes in excess of 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit.

Industry experts warn that South Korea must streamline commercial regulation if the UAV market is to flourish. For example, Incheon-based startup Soomvi has developed the S-200 Rescue drone, a quadcopter that can drop flotation devices to drowning swimmers as well as patrol waterways for maritime search and rescue.

However, Soomvi’s Overseas Strategy Manager Park Sung-youl feels like he’s drowning in red tape as his company attempts to get official approval to deploy. “We need to get permission from at least four government agencies when we test fly drones in Seoul,” Park said.

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