New Drones Act as Life-Saving ‘Eyes in the Sky,’ IFD Says

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — You may notice some eyes in the sky the next time Indianapolis Fire Department gets a call.

This past week the department started using drones to help firefighters do their job.

IFD has already used their new drones, helping IMPD search for a missing boy Friday night, and Capt. Andy Hearrell said the technology could be a complete game-changer for the department.

Weighing about 6.5 pounds and measuring a foot long, these little drones offer monumental impact for the department.

“It facilitates that information-gathering much much quicker and more efficiently,” said Hearrell.

In 2016, IFD responded to more than 100,000 calls. Now tablets and three drones may come along on those calls.

“And it can go from ground level to hundreds of feet in the sky in a matter of seconds, to be the eyes in the sky for the fire department,” said Hearrell.

He said firefighters can now stand hundreds of feet away and figure out how to tackle a fire, even in areas they cannot see.

“Gives us much better chance to have successful rescues and successful fire outcomes,” said Hearrell.

The drones can comb for missing people with an infrared lens that senses heat.

Before this week, IFD would rely on IMPD or state police choppers for a bird’s-eye view, which could take over an hour, in a situation when every second counts.

But these new drones could change that.

“We can be in the air within five minutes of us arriving on the scene,” said Hearrell.

Plus the drones are fast, topping out at 40 miles per hour.

And Hearrall says they’re easy to use: “I’m not very good at video games, so it took a minute to get the eye and hand coordination, but once you get it down, it’s fairly simple.”

Finally, the department says the drones could be potentially life-saving for firefighters and those in danger.

The drones cost $25,000 for the department. While the cost wasn’t planned into this year’s budget, IFD moved some money around to create room for the purchase.

IFD estimates it will take about a week for firefighters to train to fly the drones to meet FAA requirements.

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