Utah company hopes to employ drones to assist first responders

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SALT LAKE CITY – Drones can fly high in the air and utilize infrared cameras in order to map a half-square mile in a matter of seconds, and that technology could be employed by search and rescue crews working to save lives.

FOX 13 News’ Matt McDonald recently took a look at the possibility of drones being used in that capacity in Utah.

"A chance to fly around, and combined with still photos, create a tribute video for the emergency responders,” said Joe Dougherty, a Spokesman from the Utah Department of Emergency Management, regarding their use of drones after the disaster in Hildale last month.

Dougherty’s department has a drone set up to fly and record, but, in a disaster, new uses for the technology are taking off.  One of the applications of this technology is in search and rescue, and if you're hurt and you need supplies, maybe a two-way radio, they can take a drone and bring it right to you.

Dave Jeltema of Utah Drone Imaging said drones have the precision to get very close to those in need.

"We can deliver a two-way radio, we can deliver even emergency supplies, water, first aid stuff with a drone,” he said.

Jeltema and his company started a Kickstarter fund, hoping to raise enough to build a search and rescue drone, and they plan on donating their time to fly that drone.

"We can get really high, turn on the infrared camera, and then look for targets and then go in and inspect those targets,” Jeltema said.

Drones are relatively cheap compared to other options.

"If you were to use a helicopter, say a National Guard Blackhawk helicopter for firefighting operations, that costs about $4,000 an hour,” he said.

There are challenges, as drones need to be registered as aircraft with the FAA and pilots must be certified.

But the amateur drone enthusiast won't necessarily be left out in the cold.

"How can we leverage the ability of the hobbyist to get situational information to first responders?” Dougherty asked.

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