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Denver uses drones for advanced firefighting

DENVER (KDVR) — The Denver Fire Department is taking firefighting into the future by using drones to respond to emergencies.

Denver first launched its drone program five years ago after receiving a grant. Since then, the department has trained and licensed seven drone pilots and developed a program to use the technology to assist in emergencies.


“We’ll put the drone in and see 100 percent what’s going on,” said Todd Bruin, deputy fire alarm superintendent for the Denver Fire Department.

Drones allow them to see the fire from a bird’s eye view. It also has a camera equipped with a variety of modes, including infrared and thermal imaging, to help locate hot spots, locate a missing person, or detect other features that cannot be seen with the naked eye.

Denver Fire’s most advanced drone can fly in rain, snow and wind at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour. Its camera can zoom in on an object over half a mile and maintain a stable image.

The video is transmitted in real time to monitors in the department’s three specialized response vehicles. The material can also be sent to dispatchers, fire officials and field crews.

“You have a controller with a screen that is only 5 inches diagonally. This is not good for anyone. That’s good, but my incident command needs to see what I see,” Bruin said.

The Denver Fire Department is taking firefighting into the future by using drones to respond to emergencies. (Denver Fire Department)

Drones can control fires before humans arrive

The main use of drones is firefighting. They can check the structure before firefighters enter to minimize the danger. The department can also use recorded videos to learn what went right and what may have gone wrong during the response.

Denver Fire also uses drones during high-speed water rescues, search and rescue operations, and high-angle rescue operations.

“I thought it would be all about drones and flying. That’s very little flying. We set up the drone and park it. And everything else happens in the back,” Bruin said.

In the future, the department plans to double its drone team. The goal is to have the remote control available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Currently, night fires require on-call pilot intervention.

One of Denver Fire’s long-term goals is for a drone to be the first to see any emergency.

“We will have strategic drones throughout the city, which will be deployed on the roofs of buildings. When a call comes in, the drone will take off. He will get to the scene before police, fire and EMS even arrive,” Bruin said. “They will come to the scene and we will immediately know how serious this incident is.”