The use of drone has exploded in recent years. Earthquakes, wildfires, landslides, and similar environmental disasters are difficult for ‘on-foot’ personnel to navigate. Deploying helicopters and airplanes in these circumstances can prove costly and dangerous. A variety of initiatives are taking place worldwide using drone technology to assist in search and rescue efforts and even battling a fire.

New York City firefighters used a drone for the first time to monitor a dangerous blaze.

When a four-alarm fire broke out in the Bronx on Monday night, firefighters used an $85,000 drone to scope out the scene and a live feed of the operation to the command post, fire department officials said.

Timothy Herlocker, director of the department’s operations center, said in a statement the drone offered a good view of the roof while firefighters were opening vents and pouring water on the fire. The infrared camera reveals hot spots that weren’t yet spouting flames.

“The idea behind it is to keep an eye on our firefighters while they’re operating on the roof where the Incident Commander can’t see them,” Herlocker said. “That image is fed directly to the incident commander, and then it’s also shared with senior decision makers in the fire department.”

The 8-pound drone “can stay aloft for as long as necessary to keep an aerial view on the target,” the FDNY said in its statement. It is piloted by specially trained firefighters from the department’s Command Tactical Unit, which currently has three drones at its disposal.

The fire department works closely with the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure the drones operate safely and adheres to all New York City rules and policies for airspace, according to the FDNY. Approval from the FAA takes about 10 minutes, according to the FDNY.

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