The Importance of GIS + Drone Technology

Posted by on Sep 4, 2018

By: Dan Mellott, GISP

In my role as GIS Manager at Sain, I recently attended a workshop sponsored by the GIS Association of Alabama that demonstrated the employment of GIS and drone technology for search and rescue operations by the Springville, AL Fire Department.

During the workshop, a field exercise took place showing how drone technology is used by the fire department in situations such as locating a lost child or adult, or evaluating situations in a disaster response and recovery scenario.

The drones fly over an area at a low altitude mounted with various types of equipment, such as video cameras or thermal imaging, to collect information, such as aerial photography.  The collected information is immediately sent back to the Field Command Center (FCC) and downloaded into a GIS map. In the GIS environment data can be assimilated and evaluated for points of interest, allowing commanders to focus the efforts of search teams to targeted areas, resulting in a more efficient locating process. Then, as individual search teams locate potential evidence, geo-tagged photos are transmitted back to the FCC where the location of clues on the map can provide a holistic picture of the situation to incident commanders.

Drone technology provides many advantages over traditional search techniques such as helicopters and human search chains. These include lower equipment maintenance costs, safer search conditions without the risk of human life, better quality data because it’s collected at a lower altitudes, and quicker response times.

Included are photos from the field exercise.  The demonstration was quite informative.  Thank you Springville Fire Department for hosting the event.

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