The newest weapon for first responders

ian dunbarUnmanned aircraft systems are known by many different names (most commonly “drones”) and perform a wide variety of functions, from recreational use to fighting terrorists to delivering medicine. They come in all sizes and shapes, and their uses are expanding constantly.

One of the more exciting applications for drones is in firefighting, where they are more accurately referred to as unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Capt. Ian Dunbar, a firefighter with the Arizona Fire and Medical Authority (AFMA), will be in PebbleCreek at 10 a.m. Monday, March 2, to discuss how fire departments use drones in emergency operations. He will review capabilities they provide to first responders, current drone developments and the expected future of this technology.

Dunbar will also highlight several emergency incidents in which drones have played a critical role in successful outcomes. Additionally, he will discuss the training and expertise of drone pilots and have several aircraft on hand to showcase the equipment.

The AFMA currently utilizes a drone with several valuable capabilities, including high-definition still and video cameras, as well as a thermal-imaging camera to detect heat signatures and temperature variations. The thermal camera is extremely beneficial in combating structure fires, because it allows firefighters to locate a blaze inside a structure from the air and can provide information about the building’s condition. The thermal camera can also help locate missing persons and reduces search time, due to its ability to survey large areas of land.

Dunbar is an Air Force veteran, a qualified paramedic for 18 years and has been a firefighter with AFMA for 20 years. He is captain of a fire-engine crew of four and is the UAS program manager for AFMA. Dunbar is also chief pilot and lead instructor for AFMA’s drone program and has trained eight other firefighters to pilot the aircraft during emergencies. He has private-pilot licenses for fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft and a commercial license for drones. Dunbar is currently attending Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in UAS Applications and Emergency Operations.

At a minimum, (drones) could save property . . . firefighters will know where to disperse fire bombers, not where they think they should.” -- Andrew Bennett, professor of mechanical engineering, Olin College of Engineering, in Needham, Massachusetts

Tickets to all Monday Morning Lectures are $5 at the door of the Renaissance Theater.

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