WM Fire Department drone more than just a toy

WM Fire Department drone more than just a toy

New remote- controlled device to assist search and rescue missions


They have been a hot selling Christmas toy for the last couple of years, but the new West Memphis Fire Department drone is anything but a toy. Chief Wayne Gately presented the drone to the city council fire department committee at the February meeting and Lt. Freddie Thorne demonstrated the drone and flew it around city hall after the last council meeting of the month.

“The drone is for search and rescue,” said Gately.

“As far as I know we are the first Fire Department in Arkansas to have one.”

The department took delivery of the drone one day after the HazMat accident on Interstate 40. The chief used that incident and that scene to describe what an asset the drone will be.

Responders dressed out in chemical suits to do a walk around the crash scene. The whole reconnoiter process took an hour with other responders at the scene standing by.

“If we had had the drone we would have saved about $1,000 in overtime,” said Gately.

Thorne used the same example with the full city council as he zoomed the $1,800 camera mounted on the drone whirling over city hall. Traffic was stopped for hours because of the overturned rig.

“Time is precious at a HazMat scene,” said Thorne. “If that stuff had gotten wet it would have produced a gas cloud. The quicker we can check things out the safer it is for the public. We can get the clean-up company to clear the scene sooner.”

Thorne touted the device as a great searching tool.

The drone flies up to 45 mile per hour. It can tag along behind a specific person or vehicle up to four miles away from the hand remote control. Video streams straight into the control screen. It has GPS ability to mark spots and can return to home within two feet with the touch of a button on the mini iPad.

“If you are looking for a lost child it will cover ground as fast as ten men,” said Thorne.

By John Rech