Drones Could Help Tulsa Firefighters During Search, Rescue

Wednesday, November 13th 2013, 6:00 pm
By: News On 6

The Tulsa Fire Department spent the day getting a bird's-eye view.

They tried out a new aerial system that could help during a search and rescue efforts.

TFD says the technology is there for a different system that would help them find people or fight fires from the air.

It's not a bird and it's more than a toy.

It is an unmanned aerial vehicle or UAV, some might call it a drone.

It comes from Oklahoma State University where Dr. James Kidd is a professor in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department.

"This is one of many little airframes that we have, both fixed wing and multi-rotor aircraft," Kidd said.

Kidd brought his team and airplane to Tulsa to show TFD what it can do.

"I think it's a great learning experience for us today," TFD Capt. Terry Sivadon said.

Sivadon says the department is always looking for ways to increase response time when a disaster strikes. He says TFD is considering whether to purchase a UAV, since it provides a view they don't always get.

"We'll get a view of how much damage there is and what kind of terrain and know exactly what we're walking into," Sivadon said.

The UAV is equipped with just a basic camera, but Kidd says he has others that provide more detail. An infrared camera even shows the hot spots from the fire to let firefighters know exactly where they need to send their ground crews.

"The quicker we can get that done and make our job easier, maybe more lives will be saved," Sivadon said.

Oklahoma is working with the Federal Aviation Administration to become one of six UAV test sites around the country.

Kidd says part of the process is to develop a privacy policy to let the community know exactly how the UAV and its data will be used.

"We need to have integrity for how we capture the data, how we record it, how we protect it, how we dispose of it, who can have access to it, things like that," Kidd said.

Besides the visible and infrared cameras, he said there also are cameras that can detect chemicals or hazardous materials.

He also says UAVs have a big future in agriculture, allowing farmers to see where they need to water or apply fertilizer.