The last time we studied the PwC drone report – Skies Without Limits – we were able to garner insight into the ways commercial business operations can capitalise on disruptive UAV technology. The opportunities to improve sales and drive efficiency seem limitless, and as laws and procedure come into place to standardise UAV presence in civil air-space, we will see an increasing number of businesses adopt drone technology. But beyond being a commercial logistical solution, drones also present a unique opportunity to revolutionise and assist EMS, SAR and other crisis operations.
Search and rescue (SAR) operations often place personnel in dangerous and inhospitable environments, such as rough, open water. The unpredictability and urgency of such an operation could end up putting more lives in danger, but drones can offer real-time support. Waterproof drones, fitted with live feed cameras and floodlights, specifically for use during SAR operations are being tested by the independent offshore lifeboat service of Caister, Norfolk. With the Civil Aviation Authority already entering conversations surrounding the technologies use, we may not be far from its integration.
With the benefit of being instantly deployable, drones will: provide a useful asset in rapidly generating additional information and analysis of a road accident at an elaborate intersection or on a busy motorway; offer 3D and thermal imaging to rapidly assess scenes with AI analysis in harmony with smart roads and relevant big data; the same drone can serve as a cell tower to secure a reliable line of communications between first responders and other medical service personnel.
The data capture of drones monitoring traffic flow and incidents could also turn a commercial profit for public services; Big Data is an asset to any business operation and this sort of information could be improve the efficiency of insurance companies, for example. Once again, drones seem to present almost limitless opportunities to improve the operational and economic efficiencies of emergency services.
Previously, we have drawn attention to structural and geographical analytics that would be useful in excavation, mining and architecture. However, these same principles of commercial practice apply to securing the structural integrity of a damaged building, through fire or otherwise. The technology is far from conceptual – Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue services have been using drones since 2015. Having seen successful results, even saving personnel by detecting an unsupported wall nearby, Manchester Fire & Rescue operates one of the first services to set up round the clock drone capability.
Just by assessing the technologies that can be integrated with drones, and their pre-disposed capabilities we can garner a wealth of insight into the future of crisis management using drone technology. We will be pushing the subject even further at Helitech International 2018 to assess manned and unmanned rotorcraft collaborative operations, the role of drones across civil sectors and the future for drone technologies.