“New uses are constantly being found for drones, including surveying crops, inspecting damaged homes and infrastructure, and delivering packages and medical supplies. But one field where drones have already proved, and continue to prove their worth, is in search and rescue.”
On Saturday, at Search and Rescue Drones Conference in Hazard, Kentucky, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao highlighted several examples of how drones are helping first responders and the communities they serve.
“Last year, Georgetown police, following FAA guidelines, purchased a drone with night vision and thermal imaging to deal with a rash of car break-ins,” Secretary Chao told conference attendees. “The drone was soon employed on other tasks. It helped police nab a burglar hiding up on a building roof.”
Secretary Chao drew attention to how when a grandmother, her grandson and their dog got lost in a field, a drone found them within just 15 minutes.
“And when a train derailed, that same drone allowed emergency response teams to assess the wreckage and determine, before personnel entered the site, whether any of the tank cars were leaking bio-hazardous material,” she said.
During her remarks on Saturday, Secretary Chao cited a Pew Survey conducted in December 2017 that showed public concern of drone use.
The survey showed 54 percent of Americans do not want drones flying near homes, and another 34 percent would allow only limited flights over homes. Only 11 percent supported unrestricted drone flights over homes.
A growing number of communities are purchasing drones for first responders, which is why Secretary Chao stressed the importance of well-trained drone pilots.
“Irresponsible drone flights are another problem,” said Secretary Chao. “The Department of Interior reported that last year, drone intrusions shut down aerial firefighting efforts against wildfires 15 times. This happened in Colorado, New Mexico and California.”
The Department is working with drone and aviation stakeholders to address these problems and enable new capabilities for safe operations.