Drones - from hobby to indispensable rescue tools

Ljubljana, 28 April - Unmanned aerial vehicles, popularly known as drones, have gone from hobby to indispensable instrument in the toolbox or search and rescue services. While already widely used, their potential is yet to be fully exploited, showed a debate at the conference of the European Emergency Number Association (EENA) in Ljubljana this week.

The EENA has been working with DJI, one of the world's leading maker of civilian drones, in the development of drones for rescue services.

DJI executive Romeo Durscher said they were very useful in accidents where there is a risk of radioactivity and they keep rescuers out of harm's way.

They are also widely used in flooding situations: AI-supported drones can provide a great overview of the entire area even when visual cues such as street names are not visible.

Tomas Gislason of the Icelandic emergency number service said drones were great in tough terrain, for example for mountain rescue, where accessibility and visibility are poor.

In some other countries, drone uptake is still slow. Andres Mumma of the Estonian Academy of Security Sciences for example noted Estonian decision-makers were slow to realize the potential of using drones in rescue and relief efforts.

Drones were just one of the topics discussed at the EENA conference, which was under way in Ljubljana from Wednesday to Friday.

Other issues included leveraging social media such as Facebook in rescue situations, the benefits of the rapid development of computer science, and ways to improve the cybersecurity of relief and rescue services.

Billed as the go-to event on emergency services, the conference featured over 700 public safety professionals from fifty countries.

There were some 80 presentations and an accompanying expo featuring 25 companies from the industry presenting the latest products and services for first responders and emergency services.

EENA is an NGO bringing together over 300,000 representatives of emergency services from 80 countries.