From delivering packages to replacing satellites, drones are now helping aid workers in Europe tackle real-world emergencies.
The “drone school” in Copenhagen aims to help government agencies in Europe and beyond transform drones from recreational toys to lifesaving tools. This builds on Europe’s worldwide lead in giving public groups and companies relatively free rein to experiment with unmanned aircraft.
Four teams from Britain, Denmark, Iceland, and Ireland are taking part in the program, organized by the European Emergency Number Association, a nonprofit trade body, and supported by DJI, the Chinese drone maker. They will spend three days of training in Copenhagen, which is just the beginning of a six-month trial that’s dubbed as the world’s largest and most widespread experiment with unmanned aircraft to potentially save lives.
Each group will be provided with two drones costing up to $5,000 (some will even have thermal imaging cameras). The groups will share their experiences as they use the machines when responding to emergency calls.
“For us, this technology is a game-changer,” said Mr. McLinden, a firefighter from the United Kingdom. McLinden and his two other colleagues will use their learnings to initiate a 24/7 drone support to monitor accidents from 91 meters (300 feet) above.
Like most bold experiments, Europe’s drone school must find ways to overcome some challenges. For instance, drones cannot fly in bad weather, have limited battery life, and sometimes struggle to connect to emergency services’ information technology systems.
“Drones aren’t going to replace what we do,” Mr. McLinden said. “But anything that we can do to give our crews an advantage, that’s great.”