Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service boosts drone capability

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) now has the capability to deploy two operational drones to live incidents as part of its Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP) 2021-24.

The introduction of operational drones as a deployable asset to an ongoing incident forms just one part of MFRS’s forward thinking and bold IRMP 2021-24, which aims to develop a balanced approach to reducing risk within the community. The drones bring additional support to crews at incidents by providing aerial imagery, thermal imagery, additional lighting, video recording, communications, and the ability to search wide areas and read hazard labels from a distance.

Piloted by a member of the service’s designated drone team, possessing industry standard qualifications, this innovative ‘eye in the sky’ has the potential to gather unparalleled intelligence and situational awareness at ongoing incidents, in real time, that could save lives.

Group Manager Phil Byrne said, “From arriving on scene, the pilot can have the drone in the air within five minutes. Detachable payloads include a spotlight camera and a loud speaker, which can provide instructions to people who may be trapped or give instructions to residents who may be on balconies or in other inaccessible areas to evacuate.

“The technology also has the benefit of thermal imagery, so we can switch the camera from its normal vision to thermal imagery, where you can see hot or cold targets. So if you’ve got people missing, people in the water, or thermal radiation from a fire, it can pick that up.

“The eye in the sky gives any Incident Commander a much-improved situational awareness, so not only would they be able to see the fire or the incident they are dealing with but much further afield, including premises that the incident may be affecting and any road networks.

“We could stream that footage further afield to other Commanders or other agencies who may need to see that footage who aren’t necessarily at scene but could have an important part to play in resolving that incident.”