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Youngstown fire, police officials learn how drones can help them

Youngstown fire, police officials learn how drones can help them

The controller for a drone is shown Thursday in Youngstown City Hall, where Bob Jadloski of Aerial Solutions of Youngstown talked about the ways drones could be added to the Youngstown police and fire departments. The controller shows a thermal image from a drone that Jadloski was holding in his hands. Thermal imaging could be helpful in locating individuals in a building who cannot get themselves out because of a fire, Jadloski said. Staff photo / Ed Runyan

YOUNGSTOWN — A drone demonstration outside Youngstown City Hall on Thursday seemed to spark enthusiasm for the benefits the Youngstown police and fire departments could see if they begin using the machines.

Bob Jadloski of Aerial Solutions flew a drone to show police Chief Carl Davis, fire Chief Barry Finley, Councilwoman Anita Davis and others how the aircraft can hover about 100 feet in the air and provide live closeup video of people at the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre a couple blocks away.

Davis said he thinks the technology might help locate a missing person, such as someone disabled who “walks away” or gets lost. He said it also might be helpful for a large event, such as a parade or a vehicle pursuit.

The outdoor demonstration followed an hourlong meeting in the Youngstown City Council caucus room, where Jadloski discussed ways that a drone might use infrared or thermal imaging to help locate a trapped person in a burning high rise or find a fugitive during a wooded manhunt.

Then he discussed the $10,000 cost of a drone with thermal imaging and some of the more advanced features available. He said it costs about $1,000 per person to train a city employee over 18 to 24 hours to operate a drone and obtain an FAA license. Some employees would be able to fly a drone with less training at a lower cost.

Jadloski has worked with the sheriff’s offices in Mahoning and Trumbull counties to provide the drones and train personnel, he said. On Thursday, Jadloski was invited by the Youngstown City Council safety committee to talk about the idea with Youngstown.

Councilman Jimmie Hughes, a former Youngstown police chief, mentioned that the police department received assistance from the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office to use drones to identify people illegally riding four wheelers on the North Side not long ago. The drones helped track the riders to their homes and issue citations.

Davis said it would be good if the police department had its own drone in case one from the sheriff’s office was not available.

Finley said a drone would be helpful in a hazardous materials incident because it could fly into the area to provide useful information about the materials instead of sending in a firefighter.

After the meeting, Finley said he learned a few things from talking to the former Canton fire chief about ways a fire department can use drones.

“He absolutely loves them,” Finley said. One of the ways Finley sees the instruments being used is in a commercial fire. He said under current conditions, four fire department supervisors position themselves on the four sides of the building and feed information to a central commander, who then decides how to attack the fire.

With a drone, the same type of information could be obtained with one drone flying above the building. It would provide information faster and from a vantage point not normally possible.

The Youngstown Fire Department is familiar with thermal imaging because firefighters already use it, Finley said. But extending that technology into the air could provide information about victims faster. Firefighters could send up a drone to provide thermal images to identify the location of a trapped person. Then a firefighter can be sent to the exact location of the victim instead of having to feel their way around in a smoky space, Finley said.

Jadloski showed video of a type of drone powerful enough to lift a grown person out of a body of water to safety.

“It gets me excited,” Finley said of the possibilities. “Canton has been using them in a lot of situations.”

Jadloski said the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office has about nine drones and 10 or more personnel trained to fly them. The Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office has five or six drones and about seven personnel trained to fly them.

Jadloski said one way drones have been used in law enforcement is to make it easier to spot marijuana crops.

He said certain types of imaging on a drone can locate a human body in a lake, though a drone costing hundreds of thousands of dollars would be needed to locate a body that had been in the water more than a short time because thermal imaging detects heat.

Jadloski said a drone can be outfitted with a speaker that can broadcast information to a suspect a hundred or more feet below or tell a person in distress to remain at their present location because help is on the way.

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