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July 13, 2018

Drones and Public Safety: Help From Above .

Drones and Public Safety: Help From Above


Jason Johnson

Wirelessly-enabled drones have great potential to change the way industries across the country do business, from revolutionizing logistics and farming to improving mapping and media coverage.

In addition, drones—also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)—are being used to protect our communities and offer enhanced responses during emergencies. As these public safety-related use cases continue to grow, here are a few areas where drones are making a difference:

Medical Emergencies

Drones have the ability to deliver lifesaving aid quickly to people who need it. For instance, a drone deployment company is partnering with hospitals and local authorities to distribute medical equipment, including for cardiac arrest-related incidents. The program is expected to increase the chance of a victim’s survival by improving response times, especially when first responders are hampered by traffic congestion.

Search & Rescue

National Parks like the Grand Canyon are using drones to help search for missing hikers and tourists. UAVs can survey large areas quicker and more safely than traditional rescue crews. Using drones to locate missing people also allows public safety officials to review footage and accurately determine what kind of rescue may be needed.

And in a story that captured attention around the world, heat imaging drones were recently deployed in the successful rescue of a youth soccer team trapped in a cave. The drones were used to search the area for potential fissures or entry points that could be drilled to allow closer access to the team.

Disaster Response

Mobile providers understand that cell service is a lifeline during natural disasters like hurricanes. AT&T and Verizon are developing and using drones that act as flying cell sites to provide additional wireless coverage to emergency responders and citizens alike.

Coordinating Emergency Response

The City of San Diego is partnering with companies like AT&T, Qualcomm and GE to test how wireless networks, including FirstNet—which allows first responders across the country to communicate quickly in an emergency—can enhance drone operations.

As the use cases for wireless-powered drones increase, CTIA has also stepped up its UAV advocacy.  In recent months, we’ve discussed the importance of the FAA recognizing that commercial wireless networks offer the best communications platform for drone ID and tracking.

We’ve applauded the Administration’s recently launched Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program, which awarded grants to ten pilot projects that will solve issues in their local communities, including some related to public safety. Additionally, the CTIA Drones Working Group established a set of voluntary data reporting principles to provide a road map for consistently-formatted data to agencies like FAA, FCC and NASA on wireless network-enabled drone communications.

Powered by wireless connectivity, drones can enable first responders to save lives and help make our communities safer, highlighting another way that wireless connectivity is making our world a better place.

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