Stop, Drop, and Fly - How Fire Departments Use Drones to Fight Fires


When a fire alarm sounds, time is of the essence, and having eyes immediately on a scene can be the difference between a saving a home, or more importantly, saving a life. For firefighters, that means having access to the best technology and tools to assess situations as quickly as possible. Today, drone technology is playing a vital role in assisting firefighters and saving lives.

Using drones equipped with aerial telepresence technology, firefighters are able to get complete visibility on a situation almost instantly. With the ability to go beyond traditional boundaries and limitations like distance and terrain, drones allow firefighters to quickly assess an emergency situation and accurately make decisions to ensure the safety of those in danger, as well as the safety of firefighters.

Drones as First Responders

For firefighters, running into a burning building can often mean running into an unknown situation. However, drones are helping to reduce the unknowns, enabling increased situational awareness for firefighters through real-time visibility and aerial intelligence.

Quickly deploying a drone as a first responder allows firefighters to fully size up and understand an emergency situation, enabling them to make quick and accurate decisions. For example, when a fire department gets a call, scene assessments are traditionally conducted from the ground; using drones, a firefighter can utilize real-time visibility and aerial intelligence to get a full view of the scene and quickly determine and allocate needed resources -- almost instantly. Additionally, drones can help fire departments assess if a call-in is a true fire or not. With the ability to launch a drone and get instant eyes on a scene, firefighters can better determine if they need to either escalate a call to a two-fire alarm and have the next closest fire station respond as well, or cancel a call and reduce liabilities like accidents while responding to a scene.

Large Aerial Size Ups

For large fire events including major building collapses, plane crashes, and wildfires, getting complete visibility of a scene is critical to understanding containment and any additional hazards before approaching. Using drones, firefighters can quickly get complete visibility of a situation that could otherwise take several hours to assess. With the ability to simultaneously deploy multiple drones that are equipped with collision avoidance technology, firefighters are able to truly assess and focus on responding to the emergency at hand, instead of worrying about drone collisions, or risking additional dangers from slow assessment.  

Enhanced Situational Awareness

Using drones equipped with FLIR infrared and thermal cameras, firefighters can better identify the exact location of a fire and hot spots from the roof of a building. Aerial visibility and thermal imaging from a drone can help guide firefighters to safe points of entry and routes before entering an unstable building, while still keeping an eye on if the fire has spread and areas to avoid. Additionally, with tools like geofencing and obstacle avoidance technology, a firefighter can quickly and safely get close enough to zoom into windows of a burning building to find anyone who still may be in danger, without having to worry about colliding into the building. Whether that’s knowing someone is stuck on the second floor, or 32nd floor, drones are helping firefighters quickly determine where they need to be, and the resources they need to use to save lives.

Public support

Today, U.S. consumers are not only ready to embrace drones as a tool to increase public safety, but already expect public safety agencies to be doing so. In a recent national study, 84% of U.S. consumers revealed technology as a critical investment for safety, and expect first responders to leverage the best possible tools to ensure the public’s well-being. And when it comes to integrating drones as a part of public safety operations, Americans are in agreement, with 71% supporting law enforcement’s use of drones in their community, and 62% explicitly saying they would feel safer if their local first responders used drones to protect their communities.

Saving lives

Beyond the ability to streamline operations for firefighters responding to an emergency, drone technology is critical to enabling safer communities and improving the safety of firefighters who risk their lives to keep us safe. For public safety, aerial intelligence provides a new level of enhanced situational awareness, giving firefighters complete visibility that enables quick and accurate decision making to keep communities safe.