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NUAIR hosts drone “fly-in” for more than 100 New York public safety officials

By Eric Reinhardt


A drone in flight during the rubble-pile emergency scenario during NUAIR’s first New York UAS public safety fly-in for public safety officials held Oct. 29 at the State Preparedness Training Center (SPTC) in Oriskany. Participants spent the day learning and flying drones in emergency scenarios throughout the SPTC. (Photo credit: NUAIR)

ORISKANY, N.Y. — NUAIR recently hosted its first New York UAS public safety fly-in, bringing more than 100 public-safety officials from across New York to the State Preparedness Training Center (SPTC) in Oriskany.

With the help of New York State public-safety officials, New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, and the SPTC staff, participants spent the day learning and flying drones in emergency scenarios set up throughout the SPTC.

Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) — commonly referred to as drones — can help organizations save time, money, resources, and, “in the case of public safety — lives,” NUAIR said in a news release.

“Unmanned aerial systems have rapidly become a critical component of emergency response operations, making it essential first responders have the training they need to utilize these devices in the field,” Patrick Murphy, commissioner of the New York State Homeland Security and Emergency Services, said in the NUAIR release. “Thankfully for New Yorkers, our first responders need not look any further than the 1,100-acre State Preparedness Training Facility in Oriskany to receive the best training available. Not only does the property feature multiple training venues which provide the opportunity to train in several different scenarios, but our expert staff has developed and delivered one of the nation’s strongest curriculums to more than 750 public safety officials.”

Syracuse–based NUAIR is short for Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research. The nonprofit NUAIR focuses on unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) operations, aeronautical research, safety management and consulting services.

Emergency scenarios

The Syracuse and New York City Fire Departments led one of the emergency scenarios called “disaster village,” which was filled with multiple buildings, hazardous materials and open flames, per the NUAIR release.

Participants had to fly their drone through this smoke-filled village to find “people” (heat-sensor mannequins) trapped within and around the buildings and gather intel on the open flames. Then they learned how to properly take pictures with their drone for accurate scene documentation and post-emergency education.

Participants also focused on the old runway at the SPTC for another scenario that involved a rubble pile with broken down buildings and debris, disabled vehicles and an active smoke machine to simulate this “real-life” scenario. Albany Fire Department, New York City Fire Department (FDNY) and Washington County Public Safety officials showed participants how to scan the rubble pile using an infrared camera and hazmat gas-sensing equipment.

The infrared camera detects heat and produces a thermal image on the pilot’s remote-control display to help identify things like people and fire within the rubble pile.

“We [NUAIR] are making a concerted effort to help train and educate New York State emergency personnel on the proper use and implementation of drones into their operations,” Michael Hertzendorf, CEO of NUAIR, said in the release. “It was great to see the incredible participation from public safety organizations and to begin to work with them to help them understand how drones can be utilized to support their work and ultimately be deployed, helping them save lives faster.”

Syracuse Fire Department, Albany County Sheriff’s Office, and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation are examples of public-safety organizations that are starting to “adopt and implement” drones into their every day operations, NUAIR noted. The organization helped the agencies “start and implement” their drone programs, it added.

NUAIR, along with its UAS Central partners in Central New York and the Mohawk Valley, plan to launch a New York State public-private partnership program “NYFLY” in early 2020.

UAS Central describes itself as a “central hub for information and news about the growing Unmanned Aerial Systems industry in New York State,” per its LinkedIn profile.

The goal of the “NYFLY” program is to “enhance” New York public-agency operations by identifying key issues and operations with which a drone could help. The program will also connect the public agency with the “appropriate” private company to help solve the issues and improve operations.

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