Shawnee Co. forms drone team to help emergency responders

Published: Nov. 21, 2016 at 9:53 PM CST
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Shawnee Co. is soaring with thoughts of hosting the state's first drone volunteer group.

The partnership is aimed at keeping emergency responders safe by utilizing the extra eyes in the sky that unmanned aerial systems could provide.

"They can come to an incident and provide better information, real-time information that personnel on the ground may not be able to see,” said Topeka Drone’s member Adrian Revels.

Potential volunteers at a Monday information meeting learned the difference between types of drones, legal and safety knowledge, potential uses in public safety, and more. The goal is to get at least two volunteers in each surrounding county to help safety agencies.

"We want to make sure everybody is flying safe, but then also at the same time providing us needed information or data from an emergency scene that could help better assist emergency management," said James Steele, Shawnee Co Department of Emergency Management Logistics Section Chief.

Those who attended the meeting saw video of drones in use at various emergency scenes, illustrating its potential for local responders.

"We're excited to be using it for all the other events that happened, whether it be flooding, tornado damage, or anything like an accident on the highway,” Revels said.

Volunteers aren't required to have their own drone but are encouraged to buy their own. Revels says, while some people have concerns about unmanned aircraft systems flying in our skies, he believes they're a safety necessity, with a potential to grow.

Steele agrees.

"We really want to serve the community with this. I think it will help out not only our local agencies but throughout the whole state," Steele said. "It can go a long ways. We are just at the tip of the iceberg with this."

The group’s next meeting is scheduled for December 19. If you would like to join them, you can call SCEM at 785-251-4274.