Local News


Drones to help Henderson firefighters with rescues, deliver medical supplies

Posted at 7:49 PM, Jun 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-25 23:31:15-04

HENDERSON (KTNV) — When a hiker becomes trapped in the desert, it's a race against time to save that person.

But now, the Henderson Fire Department says it is using one of the best tools available to fight fires and help find lost hikers -- drones.

Firefighters also say their highly sophisticated drones will soon be able to deliver medical supplies, among other things.

Jeremy Hynds is the emergency manager at the Henderson Fire Station No. 86.

"One of the newer capabilities that we are trying to put on our drones is a catch system, where we can actually put a personal flotation system device if a victim is in a drainage canal that we are doing a swift water rescue for."

He also says the drones will be able to drop an external defibrillator to someone who's in cardiac arrest.

With eyes in the sky, search and rescue crews will not have to walk though the hilly terrain in Henderson or travel in an apparatus.

"For years and years we've been using simple technology like gas and vehicles to go look for lost hikers," Hynes said.

Hynes says the loud noise drones produce also plays an extremely important role in rescues.

"We can call them. If they [hear] the drone in the air it allows us to get a better approximation where they're at,” Hynes says.

During search and rescues, firefighters have about 30 minutes in the air between batteries.

"We have about 30 times optical zoom, so we can zoom very close to someone on the ground and get a very close up," says Michael McVay, a trainer with Florida Drone Supply.

McVay says two firefighters operate one drone.

"The primary pilot [operates] the aircraft, moving the drone over the hiking trails, while we have a camera operator who's panning the camera and searching to find the missing person," says McVoy.

The Henderson Fire Department told 13 Action News hikers tend to “overexert themselves and don't bring enough water." Those are two of the reasons why they respond to many more rescue calls during the summer.

"Continuous calls for a lot of hikers, dehydrated hikers, people spraining their ankles, pets who are on the trail who got dehydrated," Hynds says.

As the days gets hotter and drier, firefighters encourage outdoor enthusiasts to do their part to stay safe.

“Have a plan when you go out. Make sure you tell somebody where you're going. Bring enough water, even more than what you think you may need," says Hynes.