By J. Olsen
PIO, Atlantic Beach Rescue
The Atlantic Beach Rescue will soon begin using unmanned drones to help support rescue missions like water rescue, disaster response, and, if requested, aerial observations of working fires.
Following in the footsteps of the FDNY and other progressive response agencies nationwide, the program is scheduled to launch in mid-August with a single drone, which will be used by the Atlantic Beach Rescue on the Long Beach, New York, barrier island. It will be available to other first-response agencies (fire departments and law enforcement) upon request pursuant to the New York State Fire Mutual Aid Compact.
The drone program is being funded and supported by a public grant and private donation from the Turkell-Spodak families of Atlantic Beach and the Inwood Country Club Charities Foundation.
The drone weighs eight pounds and incorporates both a high-definition camera and infrared camera. These capabilities allow the drone to transmit live images as well as a heat print of a rescue or fire operation to the incident commander in charge of the incident. The drone’s cameras allow the incident commander at the command post to see where rescuers are operating and to make decisions to help effectuate a rescue or suppress a fire while keeping first-responders safe. The image is fed directly to the incident commander and is also shared with other senior decision-makers.
The drones are more cost-effective than manned aircraft like helicopters and can be used in dangerous situations and environments without putting first-responders in harm’s way. They are not meant to replace, but to supplement, aviation response. The drone’s state-of-the-art technology will improve first-responders’ abilities to respond to situations quickly and effectively. Officials say the equipment will also protect first-responders by doing jobs too hazardous for humans. The drone will be able to provide live-time photographs and FLIR (forward looking infrared) to the incident commanders. Agencies will be able to document and photograph incidents.
“Following the recent drowning deaths in Long Beach earlier this summer and the loss of one of our village residents in a paddle-boarding accident two summers ago, we concluded that the addition of this piece of equipment was critical to our rescue response capabilities,” the chiefs of the Atlantic Beach Rescue noted. “It took us over a year to identify the correct hard asset, obtain the required training and funding, and develop the procedures and protocols [for] this program. This is an important arrow in our quiver and response arsenal. The aerial drone system the Atlantic Beach Rescue is deploying brings substantial benefits to our first-responders in the field and is representative of our ongoing efforts to provide the tools we need to deliver outstanding service to the public. The chiefs of the Atlantic Beach Rescue say they want people to know that they won’t use the drones for surveillance. Video that ends up not having any first-response purpose will be deleted after 30 days. This new technology is going to make a positive impact in our rescue operations. The drone’s camera and forward looking infrared camera gives the incident commanders a view they never had before. It’s an important tool that will make our members, and the people we protect even safer.”
The Atlantic Beach Rescue works closely with the FAA to ensure the drone operates safely and adheres to all rules and policies regarding airspace in Nassau County and New York City. The FAA and other agencies operating fixed-wing aircraft in operation will be notified prior to flying the drone, for permission to deploy at night, or into FAA Class B Air Space — the FAA’s most restricted air space surrounding JFK Airport. Approvals take approximately ten minutes and take place while the drone and its operators are responding to a rescue or fire.
All drone operators will be FAA-certified and undergo hands-on training with the system. The operational procedures and protocols are modeled after the FDNY Command Tactical Unit, which provided technical assistance and training for this project.