SARAH HOFIUS HALL
Flying overhead, a drone often can see what a firefighter cannot.
On Saturday, volunteer firefighters and rescue personnel from 10 departments learned how the technology can help save lives.
The free educational seminar was held at Marywood University by DARTdrones, which won the regional TecBridge Business Planning Competition last year. The flight school for drone pilots offers training, consultation and repair services.
Drones, which are unmanned aerial vehicles, often are owned by hobbyists — and from package delivery to law enforcement, the use of drones is expanding. With a small camera built in or attached, the drone can offer a view high aboveground.
For firefighters and rescue personnel, a drone could be flown over a hard-to-reach area before rescuers can climb down embankments or through thick brush. With a special infrared camera, it could aid in search-and-rescue efforts or determine the hottest areas of a house fire. It also can be flown overhead to assess fire damage.
“This is a great segment of the market to help,” said Abby Speicher, one of the company’s founders.
After learning about required training and Federal Aviation Administration regulations, participants flew the drones outside in the 10-degree weather.
Two of the participants were Karl DeSanto Jr. of the Mayfield Hose Company and Tim MacDonald of the Browndale Fire Company, who hope to put together a team to aid area first responders.
As Mr. DeSanto flew his drone 400 feet into the air, he could see the view from the drone on a screen attached to his controller. He and Mr. MacDonald call their venture Diamond Plate Photography.
“The possibilities are just endless,” Mr. MacDonald said.
It will cost a fire department $3,000 to $7,000 to get started, which can included two drones, training, cameras and other equipment, said Chris Speicher, part of the DARTdrones team and an associate professor of marketing and entrepreneurship at Marywood.
“We believe this is a really useful tool,” he said. “It can save people’s lives.”