Fire truck destroyed by drone battery fire.

Recharging Drone Batteries Burns Fire Department to the Ground

Over the years, I’ve written about the safety concerns surrounding the batteries we use for drones in public safety.

A department shared their story and experience with me that should open your eyes if you continue to downplay the giant risks of charging your drone batteries.

To show you I’m telling you the truth that you should be concerned about leaving drone batteries charging unattended or in vehicles, read this.

We Burned the Station Down

Our agency had (the keyword is had) a DJI Phantom 4 pro and a Yuneec Q500.

They were carried aboard our small (28′) command vehicle.

Our drone team would take both birds out for training every Tuesday evening. Obviously, we used up some of the batteries, and they would need recharging. We used “Smart Chargers,” which would shut off when the batteries were fully charged. They worked well (one for the DJI and one for the Yuneec), and they did their job. When the batteries were fully charged, they would shut off.

When we brought the command post back to the garage, we would hook up the chargers, confident they would work. Unfortunately, we made one huge error. We left the garage (unattended), returning in a few hours to disconnect the chargers. This was the routine we performed numerous times with no problems until there was a failure in the battery.

We will never know which battery, DJI or Yuneec, as it started on fire, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage. Not only to the vehicle (totaled) but 2 other vehicles housed in the garage and the garage itself!

I have attached some pictures of the damage. The first shot is/was the brand new 3 bay garage. The center bay is where the CP was parked.

Fire Station After Drone Battery Fire

The second shot is of the desk inside the CP where the chargers were placed.

Drone Battery Charging Fire

The third shot is the picture of the CP (center), the Rehab van (right), and a Suburban response vehicle on the left.

Fire truck destroyed by drone battery fire.

It was an expensive mistake and a lesson learned. Moving forward, We do not leave ANY batteries unattended when charging. The garage was rebuilt – from the ground up. The CP was replaced with a trailer and pick-up. The response unit was never replaced, nor was the rehab van.

However, please share our story by showing the damage, and hopefully, it will save another department from this happening.

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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