Boise Fire Department prepares to deploy drones in different scenarios

Posted at 5:09 PM, Jul 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-24 19:09:00-04

The Boise Fire Department has been working for a little over a year to get the certificates needed from the FAA to fly drones when the department arrives on a scene.

Boise Fire has purchased four drones and have four operators trained to fly with a spotter during both day and night operations in both controlled and uncontrolled airspace.

The drones will send a live video back so that the commander on the scene can get a bird's eye view of the situation before sending out firefighters or other resources.

"I think it is going to enhance the safety of our individuals," said Deputy Chief Perry Oldenburg of the Boise Fire Department.

Drones will be used in a variety of different ways, during fires, hazmat situations, search and rescue operations and Oldenburg said they would use the drone to fly over the Boise River to identify where someone might need help or to identify new hazards such as trees getting stuck in the river.

The four drones cost $4,000 and that money was budgeted through savings according to Oldenburg.

"It's a relatively cheap cost for everything that the drone can do," said Oldenburg.

This story also gave Oldenburg a chance to relay a message to other drone operators to not fly over public safety incidents, especially wildfires.

"We are very concerned about that," said Oldenburg. "If there is a temporary flight restriction in and around firefighting operations it is illegal to operate your drone in that area."

It's an important reminder because recent wildfires have highlighted how important air support is to suppress a fire, an unidentified drone can cause officials to ground that air support until the drone is removed from the airspace.

"That would certainly inhibit and stop everything else that we are doing and could potentially turn a small fire into to a huge fire," said Oldenburg.

The drone project is so new that the Boise Fire Department has only made one flight.