Drones for emergency services

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The emergency service of Ireland is currently researching the use of the remote-controlled aircraft, also known as “Quadcopters”, for major incidents in what have been described as “interesting times ahead” for the service.

It is believed members of the fire brigade will soon receive training in how to use the craft.

The introduction of drones could offer a great opportunity to assess information from significant incidents and large-scale events, providing additional information to fire services.

While the use of drones has been supported for their ability to complete tasks more efficiently, concerns have also been raised over surveillance, safety and privacy issues.

Drones have already been introduced by fire authorities in Boston.

According to sUAS, the department decided to purchase the drones for operational purposes after they were successfully implemented by the Brewster Ambulance Service.

Dublin Fire Brigade confirmed on its Twitter account that it was researching the use of such drones here, in response to the report about the experience in Boston.

The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) defines drones as “any aircraft and its associated elements, other than a balloon, kite or small aircraft which is intended to be operated with no pilot on board”.

In Ireland, small drones (under 20kg) can generally be used non-commercially if kept below 120 metres in altitude, within 500 metres from the operator and at least 150m away from anyone else or any “structure or vehicle”.

They cannot be used “over any assembly of persons”, in “densely populated” residential areas or near airports unless special permission is granted. The IAA also suggests that third party insurance be taken out when purchasing one.

Irish criminals have also exploited the technology, with one gang using the device to try to transport drugs into a prison last year.

The drone, valued at around €2,000 crash landed in an exercise yard in Wheatfield Prison last year.