Sabine VFD Using ‘Drone-Age’ Technology With Thermal Imaging Technology


A small East Texas volunteer fire department jumped into the drone age with a new piece of technology that could save lives in search and rescue operations.

The Sabine VFD has some new hardware that most paid departments don’t have.  A drone belonging to the Sabine Volunteer Fire Department is like many that other departments operate, but it has a new element that is a game changer: a thermal imaging camera called the FLIR.

“It’s an attachment we have been able to purchase through a partnership with one of our local supporters. It allows us to see thermal imaging from the air. It is the top of the line thermal imaging on the market. You can’t get any better,” says Sabine VFD Chief Richard Sisk.

The beauty of this system is that it differentiates between what you’re looking at; whether an animal, or a human, the clarity tells firefighters what it is.

  In tests, Sisk and been able to identity wildlife, down to the flicker a deer’s tail, to humans walking a wood-line.

“And it has a flight path of over a mile and a half. When you lift it to 400 feet and you’re able to search with a drone, and zoom in, you can cover a lot of area,” Sisk says.

Its applications are endless.

“We could us it on large building fires that cover large surface areas, like schools. Search and rescue, fugitive search. Also you could fly this thing over a HAZMAT scene if you had to,” the chief says.

With a department of only 17 firefighters, it’s a huge advantage.

“With a drone versus a helicopter with a thermal, you don’t have to put people at risk,” Sisk says.

And they hope a life saver in the future.

“It’s another tool in the toolbox that we can use.”

Sabine VFD is the only East Texas agency, according to Sisk, that is using the new thermal imaging drone FLIR. Purchase of the device was made possible by proceeds from Mike and Amy Clements of White Oak.

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