A drone has been donated to the city of Birmingham for use in public safety emergencies like the massive snowstorms of January 2014.
“We could have launched it from the back of a patrol SUV and flown the interstates in sections,” Birmingham 911 Director Greg Silas told Birmingham City Council members at a November committee meeting. “It has a lot of uses. I think you’ll see this in the future.”
The drone will be available to the Birmingham Police Department, the Birmingham Fire and Rescue Service and the Jefferson County Emergency Management Agency.
The donor, Dawson Lee Williams, will also pay for six people to undergo the necessary training to fly and operate the drone.
The city council on Tuesday approved a resolution to accept the donation of the DJI Phantom Inspire Drone, two controllers, two iPad minis, four batteries to power the drone, a camera and a case for storing the drone and its accessories.
In his presentation to the public safety committee, Silas said the donor simply enjoys being able to help others. He decided to donate the drone after witnessing several disasters in Alabama and realizing how helpful it would be for surveying damage and searching for missing people.
Using a drone is preferable to a helicopter, which can’t get as close and is extremely expensive. Current regulations require the drone to remain in the operator’s line of sight, Silas said.
Officials also plan to use it to help other cities throughout the region during emergencies.