5 drone technologies for EMS

The commercialization of unmanned aerial aircrafts is leading to innovative, off-the-shelf tools for EMS


Drones armed with cameras and sensor payloads have been used by military and border control agencies for decades to improve situational awareness. Commercialization now has brought more UAVs, or unmanned aerial vehicles, to market — making the technology more accessible to EMS and emergency response departments.

Here are five drone technologies worth watching for EMS and emergency response.

ELIMCO’s E300 with FÉNIX

Kaman's unmanned K-MAX helicopter has 6,000 pounds of payload capacity.(Image Kaman)
Kaman's unmanned K-MAX helicopter has 6,000 pounds of payload capacity.(Image Kaman) (Image Kaman)

The ELIMOC E300 is a UAV with a large payload capacity and low-noise electrical propulsion being used by INFOCA, the Andalusian authority for the management of wildfires in Spain, to track wildfires at night.

The E300 can be launched remotely and operated for 1.5 hours with a radio control from up to 27 miles away. However, during night flights, the E-300 can loiter over a fire for around 3 hours and get as far as 62 miles from the launching point.

The UAV can be used to track the health of future wired firefighters and transmit the data from the UAV to EMS chiefs monitoring the health of crews. Physiological data gathered from sensors sewn into station wear will alert paramedics to when a firefighter is at risk. It also can be used to transmit video from a disaster area to help better distribute EMS resources to the hardest-hit areas.

L3 Communication’s Viking 400-S

The L3 Viking 400-S Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) is integrated with Autonomous Take-Off and Landing (ATOL) technology supplied by L-3 Unmanned Systems' flightTEK system. The UAS operates for up to 12 hours and can be equipped with up to 100 pounds of payload technologies, including chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) detectors for hazmat emergencies.

The CBRN payload would let a first responder stay up to 70 miles line-of-sight away from a hazmat incident and, instead, send a drone to collect CBRN information from the scene and transmit it wirelessly back to incident command. UAS payloads carrying high-resolution cameras can capture bird’s-eye images of a manmade or natural disaster, which can help incident commanders identify hard-hit areas and prioritize resources. Images captured are transmitted wirelessly back to into a GIS software suite for mapping an affected area and later reporting needs.

Information Processing Systems’ MCV

Information Processing Systems (IPS) Mobile Command Vehicles (MCV) and incident command mobile carts are deployable, customized, public-safety vehicles that integrate aerial, ground and subsurface remotely controlled robotic platforms. MCVs basically are custom mobile ground control station for UAVs and other public-safety robotics.

They are modified Ford trucks that can house security cameras, sensors, radar and communication infrastructure. The truck can be outfitted with trailers to carry drones, which then can be commanded from within the center.

Having a mobile command center for drone deployment lets EMS teams working in remote areas launch drones over disasters areas. In urban areas, an aerial video provides actionable information so commanders can make informed decisions at the response site of an incident such as a bombing or  hurricane.

Sensefly’s eBee

Switzerland-based Sensefly’s eBee drones are tiny compared to other drones; they have a 37.8-inch wingspan and weigh 1.5 pounds. The foam airframe eBee drones are equipped with a rear-mounted propeller and feature a 16 megapixel camera to shoot aerial imagery at down to 3 centimeters/pixel resolution.

The drone has a flight time of up to 45 minutes, which is long enough to cover up to 10 miles in a single flight. In addition, users can pre-program 3D flight plans using Google maps prior to deployment, with up to 10 drones controlled from a single base station. Then, using its Postflight Terra 3D-EB mapping software, it can create maps and elevation models with a precision of 5 centimeters and process aerial imagery into 3D models. This all can be used to help deploy first-responder resources.

Kaman’s UAT

The Kaman Unmanned K-MAX multi-mission helicopter is an unmanned aerial truck (UAT) based on the K-MAX heavy-lift aerial truck helicopter. The unmanned K-MAX helicopter has 6,000 pounds of payload capacity and can move gear and personnel in and out of an area without endangering additional personnel.

Imagine providing supplies to firefighters, EMS and emergency responders in the field at a disaster with precision aerial delivery in high-wind, hot conditions without further risk to life or when personnel resources are stretched too thin. This ranges from delivering food, water, fuel, blood or even radio communications missions, such as sending the UAT to place data relay stations or communication equipment to a remote mountaintop.

With continued commercialization, drones carrying video payloads will arm EMS and emergency management officers with myriad ways to capture data to improve response and better manage resources.

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