Bird’s eye view on fire safety with new drones

West Midlands Fire Service starts a 12-month trial of aerial drones to provide valuable footage to help with responding to fires and for fire investigations.

The drones will be used to take video footage and high resolution still images above incidents.

Drones can provide improve situational awareness for those in charge of incidents, helping decision making and operational response. The six drones that WMFS will be using over the next year are M2ED drones that have a 30-minute flight time. They can fly as high as 400 feet and operate in temperatures up to 40 degrees centigrade.

With built in thermal imaging cameras, the drones can also provide information about heat sources, giving firefighters on the ground important information to extinguish the fire safely. This can be helpful to indicate heat spread in large environments, like warehouses, providing valuable data about how an incident develops. This can be used as part of a future fire investigation. 

WMFS said that one of the drones was used at the Sparkbrook Factory fire, which required over 100 firefighters to bring it under control and forced the temporary closure of one of Birmingham’s busiest roads.

Steve Vincent,Strategic Enabler-Operations, Preparedness and Response, said:

“This is a really exciting project for us and forms part of our commitment to utilise?digital technology and innovation to?enhance?the excellent service we provide to our communities”

As well as providing support for operational response, the drones will be used to provide footage to support fire investigation, intelligence and information gathering for debrief and training purposes.

WMFS is not the only fire and rescue service to invest in drones. London Fire Brigade has two different types of drones, which can fly up to 51mph and have loudspeakers that can be used to provide instructions or reassurance during an incident.