GNES take drone piloting lessons to get better prepared for emergency responses

Greater Napanee Emergency Services and town staff recently received drone piloting training, certified through Transport Canada. File photo.

Adam Prudhomme

Greater Napanee Emergency Services is now equipped to take to the sky when responding to a call.

Earlier this month select members of the GNES crew completed Remotely Piloted Aircraft Safety (RPAS) drone training, administered through Altohelix, which is authorized through Transport Canada.

“We decided for emergency management to have that opportunity to oversee a larger scale scene from the sky,” explains Curtis Markland, compliance safety and accessibility coordinator with GNES, one of six GNES members who completed the course. “The drone also has infrared capabilities, a radio and a spot light for search and rescue. There’s a whole bunch of different reasons why we decided to do this training, just to make our services a little bit more enhanced.”

Currently the GNES has two small drones for training purposes with plans to buy one to use when responding to emergency calls if it’s approved in the budget.

Markland said the drone could allow emergency crews to get a quick look at a huge burning structure and identify any hot spots. It could also assist with locating remote grass fires as well as locating sources of water-be it a lake or even a nearby pool, when on a call.

“Our entire municipality is water front so we have access to the water by air now which is cool,” said Markland. “If there’s an ice rescue in the winter time or a water rescue in the summer time, we can get out there and look around really quick without putting anybody in danger.”

GNES saw three chiefs and two captains complete the training along with Markland.

“The exam itself and the preparation for it is very much geared towards aviation and being an actual pilot,” said Markland. “It was kind of surprising to all of us because there’s so much you need to know about air space and restrictions, what happens if the drone takes off and how to not endanger the public. There’s a lot more to it other than just flying a drone.”

The drones will also have non-emergency uses as well. Along with the firefighters, the Town of Greater Napanee also had its by-law officer Brent Kelly and community engagement clerk Brianna Clement complete the training.

“The camera is extremely detailed and accurate and it’s really helpful for us to get a different vantage point, not just Emergency Services but by-law and corporate services as well,” said Markland. “We’ll be able to access properties from the air, without trespassing and we can still try to assist with complaints and enforcement. (Communications) can use it for making videos and promoting our waterfront and safety message that we want to get out to the public.”

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