Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV or drones) are being sent out to fire locations as scouts, using gas sensors and cameras with thermal imaging technology to help fire departments in their rescue efforts. With this new tool, fire departments are discovering that drones are the fastest way to put out a fire. Battalion Chief of the Fremont Fire Department in Northern California said, “One of the reasons why [drones] can save lives is [that they are] so quick to deploy. What used to take 10 or 15 minutes can now be done in two or three minutes.” And it’s not just fire departments in Northern California, a growing number of cities across the country are turning to drones –between 300 and 400 police and fire departments are now using drones, and that number is growing quickly.
Equipped with thermal imaging, many of these drones can locate the hottest part of the fire so that firefighters know where to focus their efforts and extinguish the fire faster.

There are of course challenges to the widespread adoption of drones by fire departments –the policies for such use aren’t yet thorough and there are concerns by the public that drones will invade bystanders’ privacy. Fire departments are combating these concerns by educating city residents about the many benefits of drones. With manned helicopters costing multi-million dollars per year to operate, a drone can conduct the same mission for only a couple thousand dollars.