The Honolulu Fire Department (HFD) is expanding its drone program and modernizing the equipment to handle more emergency situations.
Drones may be incredibly useful in various emergency situations, including spotting missing individuals, monitoring wildfires, and delivering life jackets to swimmers who need help. Even as hikers are waiting to be rescued, supplies like food and water may be dropped off to them using drones.
Fire Capt. Jaimie Kinard noted that a drone may also be utilized in rough terrain since, unlike the department's helicopter, there is no firefighter aboard. “It's a little less risky,” she said.
However, sometimes people who are flying drones for fun in the area interfere with the Honolulu Fire Department's rescue efforts.
According to Kinard, “It not only affects our operations, but it also affects the safety of our personnel.”
Recently the HFD had to put its drone on the ground during a recent brush fire because three other drones took up positions above the fire.
The department's chopper, Air One, has also had to land due to rogue recreational drones flying nearby.
“The only thing we can do right now (when drones interfere) is to back off because we have no way of communicating with that drone operator,” Kinard said.
HFD alerts the Honolulu Police Department (HPD) whenever a private drone operates in the emergency airspace. A patrol officer is sent to attempt to locate the drone operator and request that they land, according to an HPD spokeswoman. HPD submits the event to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for further investigation if the operator cannot be located.
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