In a remarkable display of the technological advancements impacting local services, the Midland Fire Department showcased its new fleet of drones, including Chinese Autel Robotics drones, to the Midland City Council members in a special meeting held Monday evening at the City Hall.
Licensed drone pilots and other fire department representatives, led by Battalion Chief Roger Bebeau, executed a live demonstration. Despite the windy conditions in Michigan, one of the department's four drones, purchased last year, was showcased alongside a new fire engine.
This event was attended by Mayor Maureen Donker, council members Diane Brown Wilhelm, Tim Soler, Steve Arnosky, and several city staff members.
How drones assist in Public Safety Operations
A licensed drone pilot, Keith Jonas, commenced the presentation by explaining the drones' various utilizations to date. Notably, they've assisted in fire investigations, including the Genji restaurant fire in February, allowing officials to obtain images from within the site without endangering lives.
As Jonas stated according to the Midland Daily News, “You can get into areas that the fire marshal couldn't get into without risking life and limb.”
Moreover, drones have played a significant role in firefighting efforts, as seen in the Mode's Tavern fire in Bay City, where thermal cameras identified hotspots amid the smoke.
The drone's utility extends to rescue operations too, aiding in locating a hit-and-run suspect, effectively reducing the need for additional law enforcement personnel. In Jonas's words, “This is a force multiplier.”
Aside from fire department operations, the drones have been employed in collaboration with the Midland Police Department, providing surveillance during high-profile visits like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis's arrival and departure from the Great Hall on April 6. Similarly, drones were used to survey rooftops along the Memorial Day parade route for safety purposes.
The Midland Fire Department is now contemplating investing in live-streaming equipment, allowing for remote broadcasting of drone footage. Chief Bebeau spoke about the department's enthusiasm for drones after the Edenville Dam failure, where they saw firsthand how drones aided rescue operations.
Echoing Bebeau's sentiments, Jonas emphasized, “I never thought that we'd get as many missions with the drone as we have.”
The Midland Fire Department's drone program, with its clear contribution to community safety, serves as a testament to technology's transformative impact on public services.
Photos courtesy of Isabelle Pasciolla / Midland Daily News
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