First responders training to fly drones

Local News

First responders in Danville and Pittsylvania County are being trained on how to fly drones, which may help save lives.

“Instead of just having to first off figure out logistics of putting bodies in the water to recover someone or something that needs to be done, this actually puts another tool in our toolbox,” said Bryan Fox, assistant director of the Danville Life Saving Crew.

Fox is one of a dozen first responders being trained on how to fly drones. According to officials, five members of the Danville Life Saving Crew and seven officers from the Pittsylvania County Sheriff’s Office will be certified.

“It’s an interesting experience being the pilot of an unmanned aircraft,” he said. “You’re flying looking at a screen, looking at a visual from the ground of it.”

Drones give first responders a different perspective and a faster response time, Fox said.

“We get a call for someone or something in the river – it’s going to be much, much faster for us to deploy our unmanned aircraft within a matter of minutes from the dispatch call versus waiting 30 minutes to an hour or longer to get a fixed-wing aircraft from the airport in the air,” he explained.

Unmanned aircraft can help in several operations. According to Mike Taylor, Pittsylvania County sheriff, they can be used to locate missing people or take aerial photos of a crime scene.

“Let’s say if we were to have a suspicious package that we need to get a close look at before we actually go hands-on,” Taylor said.

The drones are only meant to be used in emergency situations, Taylor said, adding that neighbors shouldn’t feel worried about an invasion of privacy. There are laws they have to follow to prevent that from happening, he said.

“There are a lot of laws that give us guidelines on how we can fly, when we can fly, what type of missions we can fly,” Taylor said. 

Within the next month, first responders will take the test required to fly drones by the FAA, Taylor said. The drones are expected to be in the air in about two to three months, he added.

The Danville Life Saving Crew will have five drones in their fleet, Fox said. They were fully paid for by donations to the department, he added.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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