DES Drone Team: Central Texas’s New Heroes

The Directorate of Emergency Services (DES) drone team at Fort Cavazos has emerged as modern-day heroes, rescuing soldiers trapped by floods during recent severe weather in Central . Led by James Wallace, Battalion 1 Chief of the Fort Cavazos Fire Department, this reportedly team demonstrated the life-saving potential of in emergency situations.

The Formation of the DES Drone Team

The DES drone team was established earlier this year, comprising 12 members with FAA certification. Five members underwent an intensive 100-hour drone training course in Austin, Texas, with more members currently in training.

“Drone capabilities have been around a while in the public service sector,” Wallace said, emphasizing the importance of integrating these capabilities at Fort Cavazos.

The First Rescue Mission: Cowhouse Machine Gun Range

On May 5, the drone team faced their first real test. Soldiers were trapped at Cowhouse Machine Gun Range due to rising floodwaters. Wallace called for a swift-water rescue team and included the drone team in the operation. With over 30 soldiers trapped and the water levels rapidly rising, the drone team's role became crucial.

Boats and drones were launched to facilitate the rescue. The drone team, consisting of three members that day, provided overwatch for the boat teams, ensuring continuous monitoring and safety. This real-time aerial perspective allowed the incident commander to oversee the operation without hindering others. All 39 soldiers were successfully rescued.

Second Mission: Curry Demolition Range

The drone team was called into action again on the same day to rescue soldiers trapped at Curry Demolition Range. This time, firefighter Michael Cloutier piloted the drone, with Arco Ruiz as a visual observer and Ennis Kanawi in command. The team not only provided aerial support but also located three trapped soldiers and identified hazards for the rescue crew. All three soldiers were safely rescued.

The Benefits of Drone Technology

The success of these missions highlighted the immense potential of drones in emergency services.

“For drone operations, you can use [the drone] to assist in rescue, you can use it to assist in wildland operations,” Kanawi explained.

Drones offer enhanced safety, efficiency, and accessibility, covering vast areas quickly and reaching places that might be inaccessible to .

Wallace further emphasized the advantages of drones over helicopters. Drones can fly lower, provide live feed and recording, and cover more ground efficiently. This capability significantly enhances operations, reducing the need for large teams on the ground.

Future of the DES Drone Team

Looking ahead, Wallace aims to expand the drone capabilities, including adding delivery functions. Currently, the drones are equipped with live-feed, recording, and thermal imaging abilities.

“The capabilities are limitless as we progress this program forward,” Wallace said, envisioning scenarios where drones could deliver essential supplies to isolated individuals while ground assets are mobilized.

DroneXL's Take

The emergence of the DES drone team at Fort Cavazos showcases the transformative potential of drone technology in public safety and emergency services. These successful rescue missions underline the importance of integrating drones into emergency response strategies. As the team expands its capabilities, drones will undoubtedly play an increasingly critical role in ensuring safety and efficiency in various operations. This development represents a significant step forward in utilizing advanced technology to enhance public safety and save lives.


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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of DroneXL.co, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and EVXL.co, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ dronexl.co or @hayekesteloo.

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