We’re forever told that smart cities will bring us closer together, organise us, and clear up our room of millennial problems. We won’t have to worry we aren’t counted. Our data will be counted for us, mapped onto an urban organism beating lasciviously with currents of people. But some things don’t change, as much as they’re partial to invention. A network of intelligence can still allow neglect, accident and unforeseen behaviour to trickle through its borders. What’s fascinating are the ways in which technology can help us supress the risks associated with ‘advancing’ our society in the first place.
Drones, for example, are on the good side of progress. Their application is spreading to dozens of industries, many of which would’ve laughed the idea off until their advantages became clear. For a machine that was seen as something of a hobby, UAVs have proved astoundingly capable in a variety of circumstances that need real-time, reliable surveillance. Agriculture, mining and construction companies have already welcomed drones into their operations with open arms. Firefighting, too, will feel the impact of unmanned aircraft in years to come, and be able to manage our urban milieu with a touch more confidence that lives will be saved and crises averted.
In the UK, drones are currently flirting with emergency response teams. Manchester Fire Service started using them in 2014 – before that, we had glimmers of testing in the West Midlands and Hampshire departments, both of which have now been active with drones in the field for more than half a decade. For those who balk at the idea, take heed: think of it as a logical development of helicopter footage, only with a link directly to personnel on the ground, feeding their activity with geospatial and thermal imaging. Drones can be launched from anywhere, at any time, stored in a backpack until they’re needed. Scrambling to arrange air support will be a thing of the past, as your vantage point is right at your side, hungering for action like a muzzled puppy.
Drones can very quickly survey the damage that has been done to a building, whilst identifying where people are trapped by the flames and assessing which parts of the fire are strongest. This is where drones come into their own. Their imaging software is made invaluable by their sheer agility and ease of use, maximising the potential of having a macro and micro-cosmic eye on an emergency. Victims of an exceptional disaster, such as a gas explosion or structural collapse, have a much greater chance of being rescued. Typical handicaps for fire surveillance, like smoke clouds obscuring traditional air support, are avoided by UAVs, through their ability to persevere through conditions that defeat us, how they are dependable and unwavering no matter what danger they’re sent into.
Anyone looking to get a foot in the door with the widespread use of drone technology should attend the SkyTech 2016 UAV Conference and Exhibition on the 27-28th January. Always at risk of a pun, firefighting will be a hot topic.
For more information, go to www.skytechevent.com