Peninsula Fire Agency Takes on Unique Role With Use of Drones

MENLO PARK, CA — After helping to pioneer the use of drones for such things as surveying fire-ravaged neighborhoods, the Menlo Park Fire Protection District is taking on an expanded role in drone testing, the fire chief said Thursday.

The department is beta-testing the FlightHub web-based professional drone management system to see how it can improve fire rescue operations, according to Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman and DJI, the drone manufacturer that makes the system.

“We are fortunate to be located in the heart of Silicon Valley and in a position to fully use, explore and guide this game changing technology for the benefit of public safety and emergency response,” Schapelhouman said in a news release. “In the last year we have operated our Drones during floods in Northern California, Hurricanes in Texas and Florida and Timber fires in Yosemite and in the aftermath of the largest urban conflagration ever, that struck the City of Santa Rosa.”

In software development, a “beta test” is when a representative of the intended users, in this instance fire departments, tries out the product.

In the past, the Menlo Park department has used DJI equipment for more than 120 drone flights to help authorities assist with search and recovery efforts and also to survey fire-destroyed neighborhoods, Schapelhouman said.

The two entities have worked together to respond to emergencies including hurricanes Harvey and Irma and the fires in Yosemite and Santa Rosa, according to Schapelhouman.

— Bay City News Service contributed to this report

Photo 1 – Menlo Fire Captain Chris Dennebaum (left) and Romeo Durscher with DJI (right) train together using DJI Drones at the Fire Districts Training Center near the Dumbarton Bridge.

Photo 2 – Cutting DJI Camera Technology allows Firefighters to see through smoke assisted by the new DJI/FLIR Zenmuse XT camera and Flighthub software.

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