On Thursday, July 13, the Orange Fire Department hosted police and fire personnel from across the state in a special flight training program.
More than a dozen students participated in classroom and hands-on drone operation training. Experts were brought in to teach the class, which will culminate in a required Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) exam.
The men learned the ins and outs of drones and how to fly them safely, but not for play — for use on the job and at emergency scenes.
The weather was a factor in Thursday’s scheduled training, which was split between the air-conditioned room at Station 2 and out in the thick humidity at the Old Tavern Park baseball fields, where 3-4 drones could be flown at once before the rain began to fall.
Orange Fire Marshal Tim Smith said his office acquired a drone about a month ago utilizing grant money.
Drones have proved to be a valuable tool for fire departments, fire marshals’ offices, and police departments during emergency situations.
As a fire marshal, Smith said he can use the drone to fly over buildings to take aerial imagery for emergency planning to note what is on a roof, such as solar panels, HVAC systems, etc. In addition, they can fly over a large complex, such as a senior housing or shopping center and map out points of interest, including fire hydrants, sprinkler connections, and the locations of any hazardous tanks.
Drone operation also will be useful during fires and for fire investigations to get a different perspective that previously could only be done with a helicopter.
Smith said there are strict regulations in place for drone operation and on Friday, the class will be inside preparing to take the FAA Part 107 Airman’s exam.
Another class scheduled in the fall is already filled up, according to Smith.