New technology helping firefighters go where human eye can't
CLEBURNE -- On a cloudy day in Johnson County, a training facility is quickly filling with smoke. For firefighters, the training is routine -- but the air support is not.
"To now be able to see the structural integrity of the building before a firefighter goes in is phenomenal," said Chief Wayne Baker of the Joshua Fire Department.
This flying firefighter is the work of global drone manufacturer DJI. Its latest aircraft isn't aimed at the consumer market -- rather it's designed to be a work horse.
"Very quickly as the [drone] technology spread to everybody else, the applications just came from our users," said Michael Perry, director of strategic partnerships at DJI.
"Suddenly we didn't just have a drone, we had a drone that was used by first responders -- firefighters and for cell tower inspections," Perry said.
For the last year the Joshua Fire Department under Chief Wayne Baker has flown a fleet of drones. The volunteer department of 25 people has flown over house fires, assisted in missing person searches, and has even assisted law enforcement -- all by drone.
They've formed the first-of-its-kind North Texas UAS Response Team.
Their feedback inspired engineers at DJI to create this aircraft -- the Matrice 200.
At less than 10 pounds, it's waterproof and boosts a flight time of more than 30 minutes. The aircraft promises to replace jobs that are dangerous and time consuming.
Jobs like bridge and tower inspecting could soon be replaced by unmanned aircraft.
"Over the last 20 or so years I haven't seen any new technology -- we've improved our equipment, we've improved our gear our radio systems, but we have not had any new piece of technology this groundbreaking," Baker said.
Unlike a consumer grade drone, this model carries two cameras mounted side by side. One beams back a live picture, while the second streams infrared video.
"My fire department has lost somebody that died on a wild land fire, " Baker said. "And to know where my crews are, to know where the fire is, and to immediately see if there are any civilians threatened ahead of that fire -- that was the 'Wow.'"