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Hilton Fire Department takes to the skies with drone technology

Andrew Hyman
Updated: August 30, 2020 11:59 PM
Created: August 30, 2020 11:55 PM

HILTON, N.Y. (WHEC) The Hilton Fire Department is now training to take its rescue efforts to the clouds, with the help of drone technology. Department heads say it’s among the first in the area to bring use the drones for certain calls.

The idea was the brainchild of fifth-year firefighter David Olney, who is a trained drone pilot himself, he says it was a no-brainer, as the drones could be a real boost for the department, and the community. Right now- they have four firefighters in training, with each person using a training drone, the plan is to purchase a more official drone by the end of the year. Each pilot has to be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration.

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“It's really exciting, honestly.” Olney said "We're adopting new things that are going to keep them safe.”

The idea is to take the drones from the fire house, and out in to the field where they can be used for life-saving search and rescue missions among other tasks. At the use of a joystick- firefighters will be able to use the drone's high-definition camera to give them a clear view from above. Then, on-board sensors will be able to pick up a person's body heat signature. Olney says they could cut down a search job from an hour to possibly a half an hour, and if need be- it could buy time before other help arrives. He believes they could also use the drones to assist other mutual aid departments around the area.

"It could be the difference of life or death." said Hilton chief Mike Lissow “We can get it out and really make a quick decision of what we need to do, or what we can do."

Lissow says he had his doubts early on- but after months of talks, he warmed up to the idea- as he says there is a need for newer technology. Olney says the department purchased the four drones at $50 apiece, but before purchasing, they held meetings to talk strategy. Lissow says the drone they’re eyeing costs roughly $2500, with the money coming out of its donation drive memorial fund, which he says is used specially to purchase equipment. The drones were purchased earlier in the year, but training was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. Its budget can be found here. Right now, they say they’re among the only local departments to use one.

According to Lissow, the drones will not be replacing any positions, as it will just be around as a helpful tool. The department hopes to have the program up and running by spring 2021.

"I think we're all just really excited to bring new technology, new equipment, and new tools to the department and to better serve the public," Olney said.


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