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Drones in public safety

Forty North > PublicSafety  > Drones in public safety

Drones in public safety

Drones offer assistance to first responders


Drones in public safety have become a critical tool in the toolbox to assist first responders.  The importance of having access to aerial intelligence is growing.  The IC, first responder, and even victims of just about any type of incident can benefit with the correct use of these new flying machines. DJI, the leading manufacture of drones published a white paper highlighting 59 lives saved.


In 2016, the FAA established Part 107, a remote pilot certificate path, which also allows commercial operations of small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS), sometimes called a drone.  This opened up a multi billion dollar market.  When flying a drone, it is your responsibility to understand and abide by the rules.  The FAA’s website offers a lot of information in both obtaining and operating a drone.


General use cases in public safety range from assisting first responders in incident ground operations to providing police, county and higher emergency management staff with aerial intelligence.  This near-real time secure data from the scene enables all stakeholders (command staff, government officials, OEM, state police) to make better decisions while aiding in allocating resources. Here’s some actionable value from taking advantage of eyes in the sky:



  • Provide real time fire progress to all areas of the incident, building, roof and any exposures. 
  • Incident aerial safety & accountability, enhancing firefighter safety by providing real-time visual of all personnel outside.
  • Reduce on scene time and overhaul by finding hotspots using aerial & thermal imagery.
  • Faster extinguishing times using guidance from aerial intelligence to direct and ensure proper effectiveness of master streams.
  • Reduce water damage and offer better coordination.
  • Wildfire air boss assistance in confirming drops, validating effectiveness of drops, and/or surveying the drop area prior to the drop, enhancing effectiveness and safety of air and ground personal. 
  • Generate 3d models for post fire investigation or follow up trainings.
  • Enhanced situational awareness.


Technical Rescue, Hazmat & SAR

  • Search and rescue assistance, being able to generate real-time hi-resolution imagery and mapping data. Think your own personal google map of the incident (real-time & hi-res)
  • Faster victim locate, by either rapid mapping, or aerial images of the land and water in question. Saving search and rescue workers from blindly searching.
  • Identify a hazardous material without jeopardizing crew safety, reading signage or viewing material escaping close up.
  • Learn how a Texas UAS Team air support helped find a missing 2-year old.


A Drone was used in this video to analyze, forecast, direct resources and determine the direction of travel of a hazardous incident without jeopardizing any crew. There’s potential to add an air sampling sensor in situations like this as well.


Police, Prosecutors, County OEM

  • Surveillance operations
  • Traffic management operations, ensuring large events have adequate traffic flow both in and out.  
  • Providing actionable traffic data to command staff, allowing resources to respond more efficiently and quicker. 
  • Disaster or post storm damage assessment of a large area
  • Assist with allocating resources and providing EOC with real-time actionable data.
  • Enable SWAT officers to have additional optical and thermal safety by viewing the operations from the air.
  • Chasing fugitives and helping scout dangerous situations


Watch how the Cecil County Sheriff’s office uses a drone to help find $394k in stolen construction equipment, here.


Coordination and planning

In under a year, the list of applications a sUAS can do in a life saving and dangerous situations has grown and is only going to expand with more advance drone technology.  These emerging aviation services require education, coordination, repeat training, manpower, and dedication to operate safely and efficiently.   A quote from Jamie Moore, Johnson County Emergency Services Manager, who’s been a key stakeholders in their UAS Response Team– “There’s a regional hazmat team, a regional wild land fire group, why not there be a regional drone group,” Moore said.


Any organization looking to utilize UAS should carefully define SOPs, rules, policies and ensure safe operations with initial and subsequent pilot training.  A certificate of authorization (COA), can be obtained vs flying Part 107 but industries experts highly recommend getting and operating under 107.   North Carolina (NCDOT) developed this nice quick reference guide for UAS operations which outlines basic strategy’s for starting a program.  Forty North offers free initial consultation and is actively working with local, county, and state resources to establish UAS Best Practices for incident responses in our area.


In addition, a drone program could cost your department thousands of dollars not including man hours in training, weekly operations, and maintaining this delicate equipment.  Things to consider include where you’re going to store your drone, who’s going to be trained to fly it, insurance, replacement parts, LiPo battery maintenance and storage, and staying abreast with FAA regulations. A typical budget is provided here for requesting a purchase of a drone with thermal capabilities.


“At some point, we’ll be pushing a button from the office and the drone will fly out to the fire,” explained Moore. “And the fire trucks before they ever show up on scene as they’re driving down the road will be watching that fire from a drone stream, and it will all be automated.”





About Forty North:


Forty North Technologies (@40ndrones) based out of Hunterdon County, New Jersey is a sUAS service provider delivering Drones as a Service to public safety, construction, Ag, energy, construction and media firms throughout NJ/NY/PA. Offering on-demand or subscription based aerial & incident intelligence, Aerial SAR, thermal imaging, pre-plans, aerial mapping, construction site monitoring, volume metrics, aerial inspections, and more.

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