Phoenix Fire Department launches drone program to help assess emergency situations

The Phoenix fire department is now enlisting the help of drones in a new program that they say will help them save lives.
Published: Jun. 22, 2022 at 9:50 AM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Fire departments respond every year to thousands of calls, many involving house fires, rescue scenarios, wildfires, and more. The Phoenix Fire Department is now enlisting the help of drones in a new program that they say will help save lives and assess emergency situations more quickly.

Wednesday morning, Arizona’s Family reporter Whitney Clark visited the fire department’s special operations facility to talk about the new program and watch a drone obstacle course demonstration. Eight phoenix fire crews got their Federal Aviation Administration drone pilot certifications, and Capt. Kenny Overton says the program will be a game-changer. On June 6, the drones were utilized to inspect a house fire before crews arrived on scene.

“This [obstacle course] allows our remote pilots to get proficient with the drone and proficient with the camera, so when we’re at active incidents we can find the information we’re looking for,” Overton said. “The drone was deployed on house fires and has had an instant effect. We were able to get over a house fire, get to the back and get information back to our command staff rapidly.”

Capt. Overton said that the privacy of the public is being prioritized in the project since some in the community have expressed concerns. “Right now we’re not recording any video. We’re working with some streaming technologies to get information to our command staff,” he said. “But at this time, we’re doing a hard-wired connection to a monitor where our command staff can watch what’s happening in real-time, get that information and make those decisions.”

The department says it would like its fleet of drones, as long as they have enough pilots, to respond to most major incidents. The City of Phoenix council approved the use of the drone several months ago.