Drones will save lives in Orange County, fire chief says

Unmanned aerial systems provide rapid 'size up'

By Mike Holfeld - Investigative Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - Unmanned aerial systems just months away from becoming part of Orange County Fire and Rescue’s emergency field arsenal, could save hundreds of lives by providing safe rapid analysis of active emergency events according to drone project leader Chief Otto Drozd.

“Everybody wants the same thing,” Drozd told News 6. "We want to be as effective as possible in  saving the lives and properties of the residents and visitors of Orange County.”

The 31-year fire and rescue veteran was part of a national task force brought in to review the efficacy of
drone technology in assisting first responders to assess or “size up” emergency scenes.

Two drones already secured by the department for a pilot program have impressed battalion chiefs during controlled fire and hazmat training sessions.

“In Florida certainly we are on the forefront, we’re one of the departments on the forefront in the country,” Drozd told News 6.

News 6 was invited to an emergency  practice session in south Orlando last week.

Two drones provided visual intel of the fire and injured occupants of a building in seconds.

Battalion Chief of Training Jason Perrigo, a certified drone pilot, flew the drone for the training exercise.
Perrigo told News 6 the results so far have been impressive.

“It’s the real deal," said Perrigo. "It provides some vital information that we can get very quickly in a timely manner and feed back to the crews that are going to go down range and do the work.”

The fire department has already filed an application with the FAA and expects to get approval within the next 60 to 90 days.

“It will definitely save lives," Drozd told News 6. “I think we’re going to see immediate impacts from the use of drones within our community. What I envision for this is that there could be a day when every fire truck has a drone built on the roof.”

The department already has two certified drone pilots in fire rescue who will train additional staff.

Orange County’s budget commission will vote on the budget for the pilot drone program next week.

 

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