From movies and adventure sports to deliveries and military combat,

we have entered an era where drone technology is not just innovation but the need of the hour. Drones are being commercially utilized for a variety of functions such as surveys and remote inspections in construction sites and agricultural fields alike. With the increase in reliability through efficient motors and lightweight batteries, drones are now finding their space in tougher and more challenging environments, like public safety.

 

Police, Search and Rescue, Firefighting are critical public safety services that adopt new technology once its dependability and ruggedness are established. Given that drone technology is now at a stage where it can be relied upon, there are countless avenues to explore where it can prove valuable and perhaps even lifesaving. In many countries, drones have already taken over the traditional functions of police force helicopters such as surveillance of car chase and aerial monitoring of raids. However, there is potential for utilizing drones as first-responders, deployment of non-lethal force (tazor) on suspects and searching buildings with suspects inside.

 

For search and rescue, drones provide an obvious advantage over helicopters in terms of navigation through challenging terrains and extreme weather conditions. More importantly, using thermal imaging cameras, drones can locate survivors autonomously and dispatch first-aid or food items to them while their extraction is planned.  In natural disasters and catastrophes, drones can be employed to estimate the total damage and to direct rehabilitation services to affected people.

 

Firefighters often face the toughest choices when working in high-temperature and low-oxygen environments. Drones can navigate inside buildings and provide thermal imaging or normal visual information for firefighters to precisely locate and extract the people trapped inside. Ruggedized drones which can carry extinguishing agents to high-rise building have also been developed to directly aid firefighting services.

 

The possibilities of drone integration in these public safety services are endless but as these are government functions, there is a need to justify this expense. Public safety officials, whether police, firefighters or search and rescue, are all trained officials, and their safety matters as well. By employing drones even in supplementary or situation-monitoring roles, public safety officials can manage and resolve emergencies quickly, safely, and effectively. Considering the fact that helicopter operations typically cost between 500-700 USD/hour, utilization of drones in lieu of helicopters can reduce this cost to less than 100 USD/hour. In cases where the police force successfully deployed drones as first responders, the workload (and resulting human resource requirement) has been substantially reduced. Similarly, in firefighting services, drones can be relied on to overcome the fires swiftly which will, in turn, reduce the losses incurred due to property damage. The cost of managing a drone program is negligible compared to the sheer scale of returns gained in return.

 

In the USA, several police forces have successfully integrated drone services into their routine functions. For example, Daytona Beach Police Department and Chula Vista Police Departments have extensive drone programs and provide public services such as first response directly through drones.

 

The Daytona Beach Police Department, in Florida, USA, has utilized drones for crime scene investigations, creating 3D images of traffic accidents, chasing suspects, traffic management, crowd management, and seizing illegal drones flying around. Additionally, Daytona Police Department helps firefighters by identifying the hot spots (sources of fire) through their drones that are equipped with thermal imaging cameras. Similarly, drones were deployed after Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma in Florida to assess the overall damage as well as to identify stranded people on the ground for extraction. Drones helped supply medical relief, floating jackets, and ropes to help people in inaccessible spaces as well.

 

Similarly, the Chula Vista Police Department in California, USA, has gone a step further and established an autonomous first-responder program using drones. Drones are launched directly from the police station that navigate autonomously to the location of distress call. Once the emergency has been resolved, drones can return to their launchpad in the police station where they automatically begin recharging.

 

Many drone manufacturers such as DJI, JOUAV, EHang, etcetera now provide drones tailored for public safety services. For the design of drones to be used in public safety, special emphasis has to be laid on their reliability, ruggedness, and visual sensor capabilities including infrared and thermal imaging. Owing to the specialized design of these drones and the criticality of their intended function in public safety services, a sophisticated training program, and customized maintenance plan is required to ensure the effectiveness of their operations and their continued serviceability.

 

Most public safety departments such as police forces, firefighters and search and rescue services do not possess the experience or expertise on how to establish a training program (initial and recurrent training) for their drone operators. This is where training organizations such as Melaaha Drones can provide technical and operational training support. In December 2020, Melaaha Drones became the first GCAA recognized Drone Operator Training Center in the gulf region to provide Drone Operator Training Certification (Professional/ Hobbyist). For specialized training, Melaaha Drones works with different departments/ companies to develop a customized training program, syllabi, and course content per GCAA approved Training Procedures.

 

Additionally, Melaaha Drones is an established Drone Maintenance Center in the UAE. In addition to the repair and maintenance of various small-medium-sized drones, Melaaha Drones can develop a specific maintenance and servicing schedule for a whole fleet of drones. As reliability and serviceability of drones are crucial in public safety services such as the police force, the maintenance, and servicing program developed by Melaaha Drones ensures their serviceability and reliability throughout the operational life.

 

 For any further details regarding training and maintenance services of Melaaha Drones, please contact info@melaaha.ae or visit www.melaaha.ae.

 

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