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How I Setup My Tahoe for Fire Department Drone Flying

How I Setup My Tahoe for Fire Department Drone Flying

Sometimes people ask me about how I setup my Tahoe for my fire department UAS flying. I’ve dragged my feet long enough, so here is my setup.

On the vehicle itself I have the requisite hidden red, yellow and white strobe lights for responding.

But I also have a second battery in the vehicle to power all the accessories, lights, and power ports. To make sure I’m never stranded I have both batteries isolated with a Battery Doctor. It is a lifesaver. In fact just recently my primary battery died and I was able to give myself a jump using the second battery with just one button push.

Personally I think the Battery Doctor device is a secret weapon for any public safety pilot. It allows you to never hesitate to charge devices in the field because you always know your secondary battery is always isolated from your primary battery.

On the roof of the truck I have a secondary landing zone. This is needed when I find myself in a situation where landing on the ground is unwise or not safe because of human incursion into my LZ.

The rooftop LZ has a band of waterproof LED lights that run around the top of it. While I can’t take off from the roof because of magnetic interference, I can land there without a problem. The secondary advantage is the bright roof landing zone makes it easy to spot your vehicle from the air at night in a sea of flashing lights.

The roof LZ lights are controlled with a switch inside the back that also turns on my interior LED lights in the back area.

The Matrice 210 I carry is housed in a slide out drawer that is full of Fast Cap Kaizen thick foam. You can see an example of it here. The depth of the foam allowed me to cut out deep slots for the landing skids and make foam braces for the cameras on the Matrice 210. This allows me to not have to assemble the UAS at a scene. It’s set and ready to fly at all times.

Across the top shelf I have a ClearClick HD capture box that my CrystalSky monitor plugs into with a 15 foot HDMI cable. A USB flash drive archives all the flight footage off the Crystal Sky screen into the capture box. From the capture box I have a short HDMI cable that runs into a Webcaster X2 video streaming box. This connects with my Verizon hotspot for streaming. The X2 box then has an HDMI cable out that connects to a 22″ monitor that is stored in the lower right area, where you will also see my weighted Hoodman ground landing pad.

Further to the right on the top shelf is my 12 volt switch box which powers my small inverter and a six port USB strip. I power all my vehicle based items off USB power, including the capture box and Webcaster X2.

The pull out bins on the top are very deep. Each has a general purpose to keep things readily at hand.

To the left of the box I keep my flight suit rolled up and on the right side of the box I keep my high visibility vest and rain gear.

With the gate up I’m fairly protected back there and the led lights in the back gate illuminate my work area very nicely.

The other advantage of my setup is it gives me a great place to work, update software, and do general UAS maintenance items when I’m back into the garage.

Behind the rear seat I carry a set of four collapsible cones and fire scene tape so I can tape of an LZ. I also carry extra water back there as well.

If you have any feedback or questions, you can contact me using the form below.

About Steve Rhode

Steve is an experienced and certificated UAS pilot and aircraft instrument rated pilot. He is also the Chief Pilot with the Wake Forest Fire Department and North Carolina Public Safety Drone Academy.
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