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Home > Public Safety Drone Podcast > Doug Bainton NYC EM and FDNY Pilot – Talking Aviation Integration
Doug Bainton NYC EM and FDNY Pilot – Talking Aviation Integration

Doug Bainton NYC EM and FDNY Pilot – Talking Aviation Integration

Doug Bainton is a public safety drone pilot with a unique background and skill set. Not only has he been a New York City firefighter for 17 years but he had various important roles with the FDNY Disaster Assistance Response Team and has been deployed all over the place to assist with incidents and emergencies. Doug is currently assigned as the Citywide Interagency Coordinator and a public safety Part 107 pilot for New York City Emergency Management.

In this episode we cover the following topics:

  • The force multiplier power of manned and unmanned aviation in disaster responses.
  • Getting drone teams in the right place with information to access the areas they need to get to.
  • Why it is important for different types of aviation assets to work together.
  • How to gain an honest perspective of an actual disaster to get the right picture rather than conclusions.
  • Advice and experience in getting manned and unmanned aviation to fly together.
  • Teamwork is the critical skill needed to get past public safety drama so we can all work together.
  • Flying together with other agencies is a right-of-way situation.
  • How to say no to a flight that is not safe or regulation compliant.
  • And then how to professionally decline an unsafe flight request.
  • Why crazy is a real way to deal with problems and situations at times.
  • Lessons learned the hard way.
  • The one thing I wish I knew before becoming a drone pilot.
  • Why a daily preflight is critical to safe flight.
  • How to turn on the pilot-only brain when starting to fly.

Transcript

Intro (00:00):
You’re listening to the public safety drone flight podcast. Your source of real-world actionable aviation information for fire departments, police departments, and law enforcement agencies. This is the critical information you need to be an exceptional pilot and help save lives with flight. And now your host public safety flight, chief pilot Steve road.

Steve Rhode (00:24):
Hi, this is Steve Rhode, your friendly chief pilot here at the public safety flight website. Be sure to visit PSflight.org to get in on my private email list, read all the latest posts or ask me all of your public safety, drone questions. That’s PSflight.org. Or if that trips you up, you can land in the right place by using PublicSafetyFlight.org.

Steve Rhode (00:50):
Today we’re joined by Doug Bainton. He’s a public safety drone pilot with a unique background and skillset you see, not only has he been a New York city firefighter for 17 years, but he’s also had various important roles with the FDN Y disaster assistance response team dart. And he’s also been deployed all over the place to assist with incidents and emergencies. And Doug is currently assigned as the citywide interagency coordinator and a public safety part one Oh seven pilot for New York city emergency management. Doug, thank you so much for taking the time to join us today. Thanks so much for having me on, I read something that was fascinating in your background, and I had to push it up to the first question I wanted to ask you. All right. In 2015, I believe you were deployed to Oklahoma for flooding, is that correct? Yeah. And the tornadoes and I read, or I heard that you said that when you got there, one of the first things that you did was you got in a helicopter and you went out and you surveyed the scene, right? That is correct. And what you said about that was that it was a very rapid way to assess the situation. Yeah,

Doug Bainton (02:13):
Absolutely. Cause you couldn’t have access on the ground.

Steve Rhode (02:17):
So here’s what I, and this is actually a project I’m working with with North Carolina emergency management where we’re trying to integrate manned aircraft and drones into the same incident where the manned aircraft would go out and survey the larger scene and then direct the drones to the things that were higher on the task list. What’s your feedback about that? Incorporating

Doug Bainton (02:45):
That’s actually something we’re discussing doing in New York city, as a matter of fact, with the NYP aviation unit they cause the helicopters have the ability to get out and really cover a large expensive very quickly and identify like you just said, those kind of critical areas where we need to get a little more detail, but they can carry on with their mission and build that data for us. And then we can just go out and hit each location individually.

Steve Rhode (03:15):
So one of the things that we experienced in North Carolina was in a past hurricane season drones were dispatched all over the state to areas that they knew were going to be hotspots, but the problem was the drones couldn’t get to the hotspots, blocked roads, no access, no fuel, no power, no lodging, no anything. So let’s just brainstorm for a minute about how, what you think this looks like if you’re not in New York city, but you were back in Oklahoma or some other place that’s not so urban let’s just brainstorm about how we would incorporate that. Would we send the manned aircraft out first to do a survey? Would we pre-stage drones, you have the emergency management background what’s in your head.

Doug Bainton (04:05):
So I think, you know, in my experience, one of the biggest things with those types of situations is understanding the area you’re going to, to start with. So now one of the first things my team will do is integrate with the local emergency responders, emergency managers, law enforcement, whoever has the knowledge of the area and where they’re, you know, where they commonly experienced these problems. Because we try to understand before we even get on the ground, what we’re going to be getting into. And one of the first things we do is ask for maps because we want to know, okay, Hey officer, this area, commonly floods, but do you have any access? And they may say, no, usually it’s completely cut off in aerial is the only way let’s say we have one road that can go in there and that’s, that’s, that’s the kind of Intel you need as fast as you can get it.

Doug Bainton (04:59):
Right? So if you have your common spots that are like that, you know, you wanna, you want to have that. I like pre-staging personally. I, my team has definitely been put on the ground before landfall for a lot of storms. And we find that that makes it a lot easier for us to operate. Now, if you’re in a situation where, you know, you’re talking about no lodging, that kind of thing, obviously there’s a logistics piece that needs to be worked out for where you’re going to stay and all of that. But if you have all that worked out and you know, you need to do aerial surveys because no one else is going to be able to get in there. Once you’re in there, we have a similar situation. We came down to Wilmington after Florence and the Cape fear river was cresting a lot. And you know, we were now obviously there’s a lot of houses in there, but our supply chain was cut off tractor trailers. No one could get in there. We in there, it was essentially an Island at that point.

Steve Rhode (06:00):
The funny thing about that is I was actually flying in relief supplies in the airplane. And I was one of the first airplanes in there. I mean, the airport had been shut down. The control tower was closed down. They were only using a handheld radio. I mean, it was

Doug Bainton (06:18):
Yeah, and we were trying to do damage assessments and we were trying to do supply relief runs and we couldn’t get the supplies, you know? And at that point, one of the members of my team had a drone. He wasn’t a one Oh seven pilot. He he came to me and he said Hey, you know, on my day off I was flying around and I saw an area that was completely flooded out. I said, you get pictures, you said, yeah. I said, can I see them? And I took a look and I went okay. And we started making phone calls and we identified an area that hadn’t been visited yet because of that drone.

Steve Rhode (06:59):
All right. So let me brainstorm this with you. So you and I are on the same incident in Wilmington, you’re there with your drone team. And the difference is that I’m in the airplane talking directly to you and have the ability to guide your team in, through an area they might be able to access the site. Is that a game changer?

Doug Bainton (07:22):
I think so because that’s force multiplier as far as I’m concerned, and I’m a big fan of that, you know, any chance you get to bring in other resources to, to get the job done more efficiently, quickly to get help to the people, which is really our primary purpose. Anything we can do to do that I think is critical. And so, yeah, I would love to have a much higher eye in the sky that can give me, you can do a bigger pass than I can with a drone. And you can say, Hey, give me the coordinates and go this area that needs help first, right? That looks like the worst hit area. And we can kind of prioritize based on the Intel you can provide. And then cause you know, with the drone team, unless you have multiple drones in multiple areas at one time, there’s no way one team is going to accomplish it as fast as you can from that, that literal 30,000 foot view.

Steve Rhode (08:15):
Well, drones are awesome. Absolutely. I love flying drones. They offer great capabilities, but one of the things that we don’t have right now is the ability to see the broader area. What I mean is when I’m flying in the airplane, I see the bigger context. I can’t see the small fine detail, but when I’m flying the drone, it’s like looking through a straw, right. You can only see directly what’s in front of you and you don’t get the context. Does FDNY have aviation?

Doug Bainton (08:44):
Yes, if they want as a robotics unit and they fly drones at their incidents NIPD has an a has a drone unit as well. So you we’re, we’re constantly doing you know, there’s constantly inter-agency cooperation with that.

Steve Rhode (09:01):
Well, I look forward to your inter-agency cooperation with the manned aircraft, the helicopters up there, working with your team. I think that’s, I’m really excited about that particular thing.

Doug Bainton (09:13):
One of the things, I mean, one of the resources that we’re aware of for that particular thing is the civil air patrol patrol pilot that’s been come that’s become more forward-facing, you know, for damage assessment or just this kind of Intel gathering that we’re talking about. You know, that’s a resource that I, I don’t know how often it’s used outside of New York city, but I do know it’s a, it’s one that we discuss every time we’re doing pre-storm planning. We’ve we’ve had discussions with FEMA for data gathering and things like that,

Steve Rhode (09:48):
But here’s, here’s my take, having been a civil air patrol pilot the civil air patrol is a fantastic resource of people who are very dedicated and very motivated and want to help the downside is that it is a giant bureaucracy, you know? And I was flying in an incident last year and we had the civil air patrol and myself out in the same area and we couldn’t talk to each other because their process and procedures wouldn’t let them get on a particular frequency. I don’t know what the deal was. But yeah, sending it in the civil air patrol to do damage, they loved to take pictures and we train forever to take pictures and upload them to whatever. And, yeah, that’s a great thing. Now, if you had a N YPD helicopter, it sounds like NYP D is the one with the manned aviation resources.

Doug Bainton (10:52):
They have the manned aviation resources.

Steve Rhode (10:52):
If you had a big incident that was not in the middle of downtown yeah, if you could, can you talk directly to those pilots?

Doug Bainton (11:02):
We can do, and during you communication with them, we do a lot of discussion with them, for how, how we’re going to get the info that they have to the agency in general, because you know, emergency management is, is that data collection point. And as a, as an I’m one of, you know, many inter-agency coordinators in emergency management, New York city. And I’m, I’m one of only two of the UAS pilots, but we go out and do these diamond surveys in a, in a multi borough way. You know, we have a tropical storm, we had a tropical storm come Isaias was the name last year. And you know, the borough of Queens and the Bronx got hit fairly hard with that. A lot of, you know, a bunch of other areas, Staten Island, Brooklyn Nicola, borrows had had have been touched by it, but we went out and the idea was that, okay, depending on how hard this storm hits, we may make the ask to NYPD aviation to go do these flights.

Doug Bainton (12:10):
They’re going to do what they do anyway. And then if we need data from them, we’ll request it and they can do specific flights based on what we’re asking. You know, thankfully that storm wasn’t didn’t require that, but it’s good to know, especially as a UAS pilot, who’s also an inter-agency coordinator who may need to put the drone up. I’d like to get directed to the most hard hit areas to get that impact assessed immediately, you know, and developing priority for something like that in a city like New York is very difficult, you know, cause it’s not geographically big, but it’s densely populated and you know, a power outage in an 8 million person city, you know, has a different impact in one with, you know, a few hundred not to say that the one with few hundred isn’t important, it’s all important. But you know, w when I’ve got, you know, nursing homes and old hospitals and all of that multi, multi multi-agency type of situation going the it’s, it’s a lot to process and you need to put you need to put the triage together very quickly.

Steve Rhode (13:18):
All right. So here’s a real world situation. There was a tornado that came through North Carolina and it was a bunch of departments working on it. Emergency management was involved. It seemed like it was Armageddon on the ground. I mean, there were trees down power lines down. There was huge interruption. And they asked me if I would fly the drone along the path of the tornadoes. So I could assess the damage. The path was nine miles long. There, there was no way that I could do it. So I went out and got in the airplane and from the air that it didn’t appear that there was actually much damage. It was very localized. So the people on the ground had a much different interpretation of the situation than the overall view. How, how do you put those two pieces of information together? I mean, on the ground, you think the world has ended, but from the sky, it was like, man, it don’t look that bad.

Doug Bainton (14:20):
Well, I think it’s important to make sure people have perspective of a, that what you see is not necessarily what we have, like you just said, but be to understand that we have other resources and let’s get all the possible data together to get this full picture so that people aren’t jumping to immediate conclusions, because that’s what happens. You know, the general public is scared. It looks crazy. It feels crazy. The media is probably not helping things. And we need to keep the cooler heads, use these tools that we have and put all this picture together so that we can give, you know, communication is key, right? Yeah. And the less you have it, the more chaos you have and this aerial view, whether it’s manned or unmanned aviation is a critical piece, especially these days because we have this ability, you know, it’s not the news, just focusing on the most damaged piece and not telling everyone that it’s not where they think it is. They’re not actually reporting where that is. They’re just showing epically damaged stuff. And you know, we in the field know that that’s not where people live, right? That’s, that’s the woods.

Steve Rhode (15:36):
It’s like the storm that hit Wilmington Florence on the, on the national news, there was a picture of like this small home community that had been all turned upside down and it looked like the entire world had ended. But if you just pulled out a little bit wider, you would see that there was an RV storage lot. Next door not touched at all.

Doug Bainton (15:59):
And you know, they may take a picture of an abandoned house, you know, that got destroyed. And it’s, it’s the perspective is key. And, you know, you want the people to understand exactly what the impact is, what you need them to do, how to keep them safe. Like, you know, and then the only way to do that is to give them accurate people. When you tell people the truth, they do a little bit better, right? They don’t want this around the Bush type of thing. You know, I find in my experience that being I’ve, I’ve been to disasters all over the country. And when you just kinda tell people how it really is, or show them a picture and like, look, this is what’s, this is what’s really happening. Here’s what we’re doing about it. You know? And obviously there’s this kind of external affairs approach you need to take to these things because, you know, you say the wrong thing and you can obviously create panic if you’re not careful with what you say, but when you tell people the truth and you show them, here’s, here’s what your neighborhood looks like from the air, you know I’ve, I’ve found that people respond well to that.

Doug Bainton (17:04):
You know, they’re like, Oh, wow. From here, it looks like 400 houses are down 300 feet in the air. You see, it’s, it’s 10 now that’s still 10 people impacted, but it eases their mind a little bit on exactly what the situation is.

Steve Rhode (17:21):
So I’m about to get off my manned aviation horse here. But but I have one more question and that is, it seems to me that it has been difficult, this marriage of manned and unmanned pilots out there that the man pilots that have lots of experience that I know have been very kind of anti drone. And so there really has not been much coordination between the two. Do you see that there’s some public relation team building or whatever that you have to do as well with like NYP D pilots? Do you

Doug Bainton (18:04):
No. Wait, we have a great relationship with you know, NYPD aviation. We, we make, we have a bunch of notifications we make before we’re up in the air. You know, obviously we have our public agency COA, so we, we operate within all the, that those rules, but we also notify NYPD aviation because they’re up in the air a lot. We want them to know generally they’re not coming, you know, down into the areas that we’re flying, but they might have to, for whatever reason that we may not know. So it’s important to give a heads up to them. You know, obviously we notify police operations, you know, because people don’t know about drones all the time and you, you know, wherever you’re flying around the country, if you’re operating in a official capacity, you want people to understand what’s going on. It’s not, there’s nothing nefarious going on where we’re at an incident, whatever, things like that, but we don’t have any problems with the manned aviation realm and us.

Doug Bainton (19:06):
And we don’t actually, I mean, we don’t deal with commercial pilots or any of that. You know, we’re never really in a zero grid, very rarely are we trying to fly into zero grid and we would go through SGI for that anyway, you know we’re going to coordinate with the FAA to do that. You know, there’s a lot of, a lot of coordination that has to happen with that, but I think a lot of it like anything else, you know, this is something new, maybe viewed as a threat to some folks, or maybe viewed as just a danger. And I think you know, there’s a, there’s a lot of things that, that happen in life that people are, are licensed to do that other people find scary. So their their automatic reaction is ban it, right? And that’s just, you know, I, I get it to a point, but, you know I think technology has come to a point where we can use these tools to help people. And I think if we all keep the focus on the idea that it’s not about, you will do better,

Steve Rhode (20:07):
Right. We’re going to, as a team,

Doug Bainton (20:08):
We’re a team. And our ultimate goal, especially in public service emergency services is to help people. If you keep that in mind. I think w w it’s a lot easier to get around these kinds of whether it’s ego or lack of knowledge, whatever it is that’s causing this drama. I think we can get past it. And some of it just takes time.

Steve Rhode (20:32):
You’re right. I love the word drama. There’s there has been some drama.

Doug Bainton (20:35):
I mean, that’s just the truth. That’s just what happens sometimes where humans,

Steve Rhode (20:40):
Well, okay. So what a great segue. So as someone that’s worked as a firefighter now with emergency management Doug, I have had issues in all of a sudden getting called in, in an emergency management request with, with the sometimes unrealistic expectations of what a drone can actually do. So what is the one thing public safety pilots should know when working inside a multi-agency emergency management incident scene with a drone?

Doug Bainton (21:15):
Well, I think, like I said, it’s, it’s, it’s not about you, right? So where we’re all one team. And I think like for a situation where we have multiple first response agencies with their own drone programs, it’s, it’s more like a right of way situation. So now from emergency management perspective, I’m not going to come into a fire scene where the fire department has their drone team onsite and flying and put my drone up. This is their scene. This is their airspace. I’m going to assist them if they need it. And that’s it. You know, if you have a situation, if they have a situation where they have, let’s say a large brush fire, and they need more than one drone, and, you know, then they may request, they know that we have drones and say, Hey, can you put a drone up in this sector over here so we can get an idea of what’s going on?

Doug Bainton (22:11):
No problem, no problem. That’s what we do. And I think the most important thing that you can do when you’re coming into a multi-agency situation is to understand what those agencies capabilities are, whether or not they’re using them. Do they need the capabilities that you have and don’t assume anything, you know you should be meeting with these agencies ahead of time, you know, in emergency management realm, we have this kind of saying where the first time you’re exchanging business cards, shouldn’t be at the incident. You should, you should get to know your, your partners as best as you can. And sometimes obviously if I’m deployed to North Carolina and you know, I may have never met the local first responders or emergency managers down there, that’s a different story. But in your jurisdiction, you should know, is networking is key in this realm,

Steve Rhode (23:00):
You’ve been called into a situation. And you are being asked to do something as a drone pilot that is just outside of your comfort zone regulations. How do you say no to the, the person in charge there?

Doug Bainton (23:14):
Well, for me personally, it’s, it’s not difficult for me to talk to somebody in charge. Some people do struggle with, you know, especially if it’s somebody in their own agency who outranks them incredibly. So, you know, there’s a respectful way to, to decline something and you have to understand how to do that. But if I’m, if I’m flying already and they asked me to go into an area, that’s just going to be dangerous and, and well, outside of the COA or any, like, there’s no way calling SGI, or there’s just no way I’m going to get this and be able to do it safely. I will just be honest and explain it to that incident commander or whoever it is that’s, that’s operating and say, Hey, this is not something we can do. And here’s why and here’s what would happen if I do, you know, because one of the things in the emergency just emergency services in general is the risk versus reward.

Doug Bainton (24:17):
You know, risk a little to save a little risk, a lot to save a lot, you know, and, and I, I use that a lot in my just daily life, you know, and I think it’s important that incident commander, if they are worth the helmet they’re wearing is gonna take that into consideration and say, you know what okay, is there another way around is there another, and, you know, maybe if I can’t do it, maybe, you know, manned aviation can, and I can say, Hey, let me push that up and see if I can solve this problem for you. Because at the end of the day, I’m an inter-agency coordinator first, before I’m a UAS pilot, you’re a problem solver for the city. So I’m a problem solver. That’s my job. So I’m going to take the drone out of play, but I’m going to go try and fill that gap.

Doug Bainton (25:00):
And and that’s, that’s how I would explain it to them. I’ll I try never to go to a boss or, or someone who’s asked me to do a task with, I don’t know. Right. I always try to come with two to three possible solutions that I’ve thought through that might work and let them work that out with me, because that’s what I ask of my team members. When I, when I’m running a job is please just don’t come to me with, I don’t know, I’ll give you everything I can to get your task done. Come to me with two to three possibles when you’re hitting the wall and we’ll work through it. But if you come to me with, I don’t know, we just wasted a ton of time.

Steve Rhode (25:36):
That’s right. I always tell people don’t bring me problems, bring me,

Doug Bainton (25:39):
Bring me solutions or even possible. So I don’t care how crazy it is. Right. Cause crazy works a lot of times in emergency services and disaster management crazy is generally the only option to get it done, you know, and, and craziest is subjective really

Steve Rhode (25:57):
Well. You know, as you’re much more experienced five, right? I always tell people I am the best firefighter in the air and the least good firefighter on the ground. But you know, the, the philosophy of adapt and overcome is crucial a hundred percent, right. Doug, we are running out of time quickly, but here, I want you to put your thinking cap on and tell me what are some lessons that you’ve learned with the drone, the hard way from experience as a public safety pilot, did you find you ever get yourself? I mean, I, I have gotten myself in a situation where I never want to do that again. Have you found yourself there?

Doug Bainton (26:44):
Thankfully not to that extent, but I did, you know, I have I have put the drone up having made all the right notifications and then you know, realized that, Oh, wow. You know what I didn’t call mandation first. And you know, I was a hundred feet in the air, brought the drone back down, but I went, you know, that, and in my head, I’m thinking how bad that could go, right. Because I don’t know what manned aviation is doing all the time. You know? So that’s, that’s something that that’s, you know, that’s not what I’d call an extreme example, but it could become one. And it was a, it was a rude awakening very quickly because, you know, I haven’t been flying drones for many years, so, and not in the public safety’s sense. I’ve only been doing that for about a year. So it’s it’s just, that was scary for me.

Steve Rhode (27:43):
Well, let me give you the flip side of that. And this is what I wish everyone would understand when you’re on the ground, flying the drone, looking up, you can easily see the helicopter or the aircraft. You have a a rather clear background, but where, when you’re looking down, it is impossible to see a drone

Doug Bainton (28:04):
Buildings in the ground and everything else,

Steve Rhode (28:07):
And the worst,

Doug Bainton (28:08):
This little nine inch, four bladed thing flying at you.

Steve Rhode (28:12):
Yeah. I mean, so if you do see it all of a sudden, cause I, I saw one flying the Wilmington thing, all of a sudden it’s so easy to get target fixation on it because you’re not communicating with that drone pilot. You have no idea what they’re going to do. It just creates an unsafe situation. And the other thing is, believe it or not, don’t, don’t let this be a shocker, but there are pilots out there that are just not professional or care or anything else. So unless we’re getting so unless you’ve got some coordination here in North Carolina with the state police, the, the rule is if they’re in the air and nearby you’re on the ground, because what people can appreciate is those helicopters are oftentimes operating 500 feet or less above the ground looking for a missing person.

Doug Bainton (29:03):
Right? Yeah. That’s, that’s key. See, we rarely have that in the city where they’re going that low, but it’s, that’s why it’s important to make that call before you go in the air, you know, because that way they’re aware.

Steve Rhode (29:14):
All right, Doug, with your flying that you’ve done now, what is the one thing that you wish that you had known before you became a drone pilot?

Doug Bainton (29:25):
Wow. exactly how complicated the national airspace is and all of the, all of the coordination that happens in the national airspace to keep planes flying and not crushing into each other in the air. Like I never knew how many planes are in the air at one time and how easily a drone in the wrong part of that airspace could cause absolute chaos.

Steve Rhode (29:58):
So you, somebody rolls up at an incident scene and they want to get the drone in the air as fast as possible. And they don’t even think about airspace. I mean, I, you can see how that could happen there. Of course. Yeah. So how do, how do we get public safety, drone pilots to take a pause and think about that? Is there training or what?

Doug Bainton (30:18):
Well, I think training is key. Definitely paramount. I think becoming part of agencies or organizations that are involved in public safety, drones, like drone responders things like that, you know, subscribing to podcasts that are like yourself and others that are drone related and aviation related. It just helps give you a unique perspective and understand that, wow, you know what this agency in this town had this problem. We had that too. And here’s what they did. I didn’t even think of that. Just, you know, I think that goes for life in general, but especially when you’re doing something public safety related and you’re doing something as dangerous as now, mixing manned and unmanned aviation above an incident, I think training and networking and just practicing your skills as often as possible is really key. And just keeping up with, you know, the FAA is changing the rules, right? Changing and flights of both people and, and the remote ID and just being aware of all that stuff, understanding whether or not it impacts you, if it does, how much do you have to do anything about it to be flying within those regulations and, you know, do you have to commit

Steve Rhode (31:38):
No. So as a, as a drone pilot one of the things that I have found very helpful, maybe not in your area, but is actually going out and making friends, networking, getting to know the news helicopter pilots, because when they show up on a scene and they know what my call sign is, and we’re talking to each other on the radio, I find that they’re actually a force multiplier because they can tell me stuff that I don’t know from the ground as well. So networking, networking, networking,

Doug Bainton (32:09):
Networking, networking, networking. Yeah. You know the N yeah, that’s, that’s definitely a good relationship to have we are currently speaking to those pilots, but that’s, you know, that’s something that can definitely be thought of.

Steve Rhode (32:23):
So you’ve been called into a scene. You are the drone pilot on call. You’re walking into a big incident. Just walk me through what the steps are when you first roll up, how do you process the information, get your assignment, get your intelligence,

Doug Bainton (32:40):
Whatever. Well, as an inter-agency coordinator, we have our radios and we’re constantly monitoring. You know, whether we’re in a borough or covering the entire city or for carding specific borough, many times we’re listening to the police, fire, EMS radios. We know when incidents are happening, because depending on what it is, we’re going to get dispatched to go to that scene. So having a size up before you even show up is key. If that’s possible, depending on what your situation is. So for us, we already have an idea of what’s going on. Maybe you’re on citizen app and somebody felt the public is filling this thing live. And there’s times where that stuff is going up before anybody else even knows what’s going on before, before they call nine 11, they, they film it. That’s kind of a thing now, right? So, you know, if you set your alerts, you, you, you know, what’s going on.

Doug Bainton (33:43):
And, and so if I’m getting called into a scene, I already have an idea of how big the fire it is, what type of building it is. If I’m listening to a fire or police radios, I have an idea of how many units are showing up and where the street closures are. And this is all stuff that I may be reporting later on anyway, as the scene progresses. And then if I have to integrate UAS now, at some point, you know, I’m now adding that layer. So it’s, you’re talking about your NOTAMs or maybe you would call an SGI cause you’re in zero grid. Like that’s, that’s a whole other set of size of checklists that you have to do like me. I do my, my drone check checklist. My pre-flight checklist every day before I stopped driving. I have no idea when my drone was going to go up.

Doug Bainton (34:29):
Right. Batteries are good. I checked my props, all of those things, my up my farm, where cause sometimes the firmware updates come out of nowhere and crazy if it’s not updated properly or if you’re, you know, your remote controller has a different firmware than it than your, your drone and they’re not sinking. Well, you don’t want that stuff to happen when the request comes in. You know? So that’s I mean, that’s, my process is to understand what the scene looks like. I can visualize it in my head idea of where I’m going to fly around it. Is that close to a park or there are a lot of trees and wires in the area, or is it Manhattan? And the wires are underground or just all of those things. What are the obstacles? And you know, is it, what time of day is it? Are there going to be a lot of people, you know? Cause I may be coordinating sheltering folks first and then getting the drone up after if I need someone else, I can call one of my colleagues to come in, help with that part because they can help put the sheltering and, and coordinating with the utility companies, et cetera, while I can put the drone up because I’m the pilot. So it’s just, you have to be very fluid, very dynamic, understand your scene and understanding your resources available to you at all times.

Steve Rhode (35:49):
So, Doug, what is the secret sauce for you to be able to turn off your emergency management brain and turn on your pilot only brain when you’re flying?

Doug Bainton (35:59):
I, I don’t know. I think it’s just years of experience going from the fire realm into the emergency management and disaster realm, that’s, that’s a huge transition for most going from that first responder mindset to a coordinator, bigger picture mindset. You know, you’re not just attacking the fire this time. Now you have, you know, utilities and you have civilians involved and you have other agencies and you have to make sure everybody’s there. And just it for me, if it feels like a natural transition to just switch over and take that hat off, now hand it to someone else and just go into pilot mode because I trust my colleagues. We’re all trained to the same ability to do that coordination piece. But I’m the one with the pilot certificate. Yes. So I take off that coordinator hat because I don’t have to worry about my colleagues doing that piece.

Doug Bainton (36:53):
They take that from me and run with it. I can now focus on who’s my video and how are we going to get this job done as safely as possible. So I, I, don’t, it’s one thing I’m trying to figure out. I do get asked that fairly often. But it’s just, I think it’s a lot of experience over the years of just learning that, like I said, it comes back to, it’s not about you, you got to get out of your own ego, get out of that tunnel and just focus on the big picture and what is my role here? What are my roles possibly going to become, prepare yourself, mentally train, constantly network constantly so that you make that transition as smooth as possible.

Steve Rhode (37:39):
Doug, it has been a pleasure talking with you today. I’m sorry that we’re out of time, I have like 10 questions that I never got a chance to ask you. So we’re going to have to do this again.

Doug Bainton (37:50):
Oh, no problem at all. It’s great. I really appreciate you having me on

Steve Rhode (37:54):
No problem, man, because what I would like to do next time is come up with a scenario and then we can just brainstorm our way through. How would we tackle that?

Doug Bainton (38:04):
Yeah, I’d love to, I mean, drones in disaster response, especially something that I’m particularly passionate about because disaster response has become a really big part of my life in my career. And you know, I’ve seen how well drones can help that when I was deployed to the Virgin islands for Irma and subsequently Maria I’ve definitely could have used a drone or two or even some man deviation assets to coordinate a three Island humanitarian response with no communications that could have definitely helped us a lot. So that’s something I’ve, I’ve definitely been put a focus on for the future.

About Steve Rhode

The Public Safety Flight website is dedicated to news, honest information, tips, and stories about the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), UAVs, aircraft, and drones in the fire service and other public safety niches.The site was founded by Steve Rhode, an FAA-certificated airplane commercial and instrument certificated pilot and a very experienced Part 107 UAS commercial pilot. Steve is the Chief Pilot with the Wake Forest Fire Department and the North Carolina Public Safety Drone Academy. He also provides expert advice to drone pilots through Homeland Security Information Network and he is an FAA Safety Team drone expert. Steve loves to work closely with public safety pilots to answer questions and share information, real-world truth, and drone operation advice. You can contact Steve here, learn more about Steve here, or join his public safety pilot private email list here.

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