Minnesota firefighters learn how UAS can assist their operations


During the finale of the 2018 Minnesota State Fire School & Expo, a few dozen area firefighters learned about UAS and how the technology can be used in emergency situations.

As a part of their class, firefighters received a lecture about UAS, which was followed by a live demonstration of the technology in action. During that demonstration, firefighters got to see the different maneuvers and functions of the UAS in the sky, and they could also view what the camera was capturing on a TV.

The class, which was taught by Al Ebbinga, was meant to not only show how UAS can benefit first responders on scene, but it was also meant to “clarify the perception of the name "drone" and how it's been used.”

“It is an aircraft and the people operating them are pilots,” Ebbinga explains via KEYC News 12.

“You are a pilot and you're flying an aircraft in the national airspace system. We're trying to get the toy mentality out of there, but it's not a toy. We even try and shy away from the term "drone" and we refer to it as an "unmanned aerial vehicle" or an "unmanned aircraft system." Just to reinforce that pilot/aircraft responsibility.”

According to KEYC News 12, the Nicollet County Sheriff's Department in St. Peter, Minnesota is the only agency in the area that has a UAS, but there is a good possibility that that will change.

No local fire departments currently have a UAS, but that, too, is expected to change “dramatically” in the coming years, according to KEYC News 12. That change would be a welcome one for firefighters like North Mankato firefighter Corey Brunton.

“A lot of times, we want to make sure we do a 360 around the fire scene,” Brunton says. “I think this could be a very valuable tool for that. Especially with the thermal imaging camera component, being able to identify where the fire is.”

​While there are approximately 30,000 fire departments in the U.S., but KEYC News 12 says that less than 1,000 of those departments are using UAS as a part of their operations.

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