For several years, the drone or UAS has been integrating firefighters and police teams into their public safety mission. Since 2017, this drone technology has saved more than 500 people. The non-profit association IEDO, International Emergency Drone Organization, brings together and unites first responders using this new technology to save lives.
In just a few years, innovation has integrated new technological bricks (thermal and infrared camera, zoom, loudspeaker, spotlights, release hook, etc.) into a remotely piloted aerial vector: the drone. All the public security agencies have therefore taken an interest in this new tool, which allows a better situation awareness. The Chinese drone ban in the USA, the development of AI, the expanding VTOL drone market, privacy and personal data, public safety – the drone industry has never been so lively and growing.
According to reports from the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College, in the US in 2018 there were 910 public safety agencies using drones, an increase of 162% over the previous year. And in 2020 1,578 agencies were using drones, an increase of 73%. Only 30% of these agencies are fire and rescue services, in France 60% of fire services use drones. Whether in the USA, Canada, Sweden, Italy, France or the United Kingdom, this air intelligence tool convinces by its usefulness and gives satisfaction to more and more fire and rescue services. And the 59 lives saved by drones in the United Kingdom prove it well; moreover the English rescue services are certainly the most experienced in Europe in seeking victims. The organization of certain English drone teams as a multi-agency team (firefighters, police officers) makes it possible to pool the number of pilots, equipment and budgets.
It was after returning from a journey of more than 2,000 miles in England in 2018, after meeting and exchanging with nine fire drone teams from nine counties in nine days, that I realized that everyone was experimenting with drones, techniques, materials without necessarily sharing the fruit of their knowledge and experience. It was then that the idea of creating an international association to bring drone teams to discuss together was born. On 10 June 2018, the international non-profit association IEDO was born under the leadership of Chris Rainford (UK), Joël Kaiser (CAN), Henrik Kruse (DEN), Mathieu Colobert (FR) and me.
After more than two years of existence, the association has grown since it brings together more than 500 members from 42 countries. This growing international community has seen the development of local exchanges in the form of national and annual seminars. In 2020, a seminar in France and Croatia brought together many members from the police, firefighters, the Red Cross, associations and coastguards. The need to exchange information and learn from each other is significant. The experienced public security services provide the novices with the benefit of their experience (Notre-Dame-de-Paris fire, Zagreb earthquake, explosion in Beirut). Annual seminars in Belgium and UK are now in preparation.
The constant evolution of technology and regulations, the need to exchange is constant. This is why, on 5 January 2021, the IEDO association set up a new website hosting an international forum with an automatic translation module allowing its members to discuss and exchange on operational, technological, training and regulatory matters. A digital library is also hosted to support document sharing in 10 languages.
Regarding fire and rescue services that are new to the use of drones, three key stages must be taken. The first is to create and develop a drone programme by studying the applicable regulations, acquiring the right remotely piloted aircraft and selecting and training the first pilots. The second consists of the operational organization of deployment and use. It is a question of acquiring and sustaining a reflex implementation in complete safety. A very large majority of fire and rescue services are in stage 2. The third stage consists of the relevant exploitation of the data, since the final objective of a drone team is not to make its drone evolve in the airspace but to collect data. Step 3 is the most important but it raises many concerns. Whether in Los Angeles or Paris, the drone overflight by public services raises many questions with regard to respect for privacy and personal data. This aspect should not be neglected because it will be necessary to communicate and display strict compliance with the applicable laws in this area.
In January 2021, a strategic partnership was signed between IEDO and CTIF, the international association of rescue and rescue services. The objective of this merger is the development and dissemination of knowledge and tactical and operational knowledge of IEDO members through the large network of CTIF.
At the end of February 2021, a 2020 drone best practices report was published by IEDO following an international working group that brought together 11 drone experts from 11 countries. These specialists have collected good practices from their respective countries in order to share them in this international report of recommendations. This document will be updated each year in order to make the state-of-the-art knowledge and know-how of the drone teams of many fire and rescue services available to other countries.
An international conference in Paris specifically on the theme of the emergency drone is scheduled for the end of 2021 (subject to the health situation). This event aims to bring together all IEDO members but above all the fire and rescue services using the drone in order to share each other’s experience through numerous speeches dealing with aspects of training, regulations and outstanding operations.
The spirit of IEDO is revealed in its motto ‘To save more lives with drones’ – share, exchange, inform and improve to save more lives with this new tool, the drone.
For more information, go to www.iedo-drone.org