Drones are making our world a safer place, with applications in countless agencies working for the good of the population. Police departments can use drones for crowd monitoring, tracking and apprehending criminals on the run, crime scene analysis, and countless other uses. Firefighters are finding the thermal capabilities of drones to be invaluable in assessing hotspots, monitoring crew safety, and locating individuals in danger. Drones are key as well in Search and Rescue missions, with the ability to cover large distances quickly, locate individuals with thermal sensors, and even drop supplies to people stranded in dangerous locations.
Like in many industries, drones have changed the game when it comes to search and rescue (SAR). One of the prominent features that make drones ideal for SAR missions is the ability to carry thermal (and in many cases - dual thermal-optical) sensors that make it easy to pick out warm bodies from the surrounding terrain. Whether it’s stranded hikers, missing teens, or other missing persons, a drone can quickly cover large areas of terrain in search of the individual. Nighttime or lowlight missions are not a problem for thermal sensors, and foliage can be seen through to some degree as well. Drones are able to (and required to) fly at a lower altitude than helicopters, thus having an advantage in terms of ability to capture good photo and/or video images. In situations where thermal images are not ideal, such as crowd searches, optical cameras such as the DJI Z3 or Z30 have powerful zoom capabilities to focus in on key areas in a search, from full height, to identify features. When used in conjunction with a thermal camera such as the DJI Zenmuse XT, operators have the ability to spot and identify missing persons in almost any conditions. One ideal drone for SAR is the DJI Matrice 210 V2, with its dual downward gimbal setup. It can carry both the Zenmuse XT and Z3 or Z30 at the same time, and the live feed can be toggled in the DJI app to view either camera output while in the air. The Matrice 210 also boasts an IP rating of 43, making it an ideal choice for SAR work.
Search and rescue may fall under the category of law enforcement agency duties, but it is by no means the only use to which police departments are putting drones. In the past few years, adoption of drones by law enforcement agencies across the country has risen dramatically, to the tune of a 518 percent increase since 2017. Drones are being used to increase officer safety in numerous situations such as high-risk traffic stops, active shooter scenes, or investigation of illegal operations, to name just a few. With their aerial perspective, drones can provide information that would be difficult or impossible to attain another way, for example, crowd monitoring in areas without existing surveillance cameras, or gathering aerial data to analyze and make reports on accident or crime scenes. With object tracking capabilities, police drones can also be used to track and follow an individual fleeing the scene of a crime or to monitor a suspect’s movements. A good zoom camera is a must for a police drone. In many instances, law enforcement officers need to have the ability to get a clear, detailed image from a distance, and this is easily achieved with a camera such as the Zenmuse X3 or X5. The Inspire 1 is one popular choice with police departments, with precise hovering capabilities, and an array of flight and safety features. The Inspire 1 is compatible with the X3 and X5, and also the XT (thermal camera), essential for nighttime operations or search and rescue work. Another interesting option for law enforcement work is the Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual, with a dual sensor (optical and thermal) housed in one case. The most unique feature of the Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual are the optional, top-mounted payloads: a beacon, a spotlight, and/or a speaker. The beacon and spotlight can be used in night-time operations to improve safety, the spotlight can provide light where needed in dark situations, and the speaker can have potential applications in hostage, shooter, or other high-risk criminal situations. Another strong option for police work is the Matrice 210 V2, with a dual mounted Z30 and XT2. This drone with its weather and dust resistance (IP43) and powerful cameras is prepared to handle almost any situation.
When it comes to firefighting, drones have an invaluable and demanding role to play. Search and rescue missions often falls to the work of first responders. But first responders and firefighters call upon the capabilities of drones in many other departments as well. When called to a burning building, a drone can be the first on the scene to assess the situation and form a plan before the firefighters are put in harm’s way. Thermal cameras such as the XT2 can allow the operator to “see” through the smoke or in low visibility to show where hotspots are, or to assess structural damage or hazards. The thermal camera can also allow an operator to keep an eye on crew members and improve safety and efficiency. Drones also have an important role to play in gathering data after the fact to assist in cleanup efforts and reconstruction, whether it’s post-fire or post-natural disaster. Perhaps the strongest contender when it comes to selecting a drone right for the rigors or firefighting work is the Matrice 210 V2, equipped with the XT2 and Z30. A thermal camera is essential in assessing heat situations, and the XT2 is perhaps the only such camera on the market with an IP rating of 44 - suitable to handle the potential hose spray and other dust and debris on location at a fire. The 30Hz full frame refresh rate also ensures a clear live image of the scene improving precision and safety. The Z30 is optimal for the search and rescue work often required of fire departments, and useful as well in assessing fire scenes.