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When Alarms Ping, Drones Fly: Exploring the Applications of Automated Incident Response

Explore how automated drones are transforming event-based responses in diverse fields, from pipeline management to traffic control. Discover the role of FlytBase in providing real-time, on-demand solutions for these challenges.

Last updated on

May 26, 2023

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Drone-assisted on-demand incident responses have been gaining traction in recent years, and one standout champion in this field is the Drones for First Response (DFR) program. They have transformed emergency response, keeping both the public and our brave responders safe.

If one had to highlight benefits, with DFR programs, response times have reduced, situational awareness has improved, and operational effectiveness has increased. Equipped with thermal imaging, drones can see through smoke, fog, and even darkness, helping locate people when every second counts. As soon as an incident (911 equivalent) is reported, a drone can be dispatched to the scene, providing live video feeds to responders and incident commanders.

With autonomy in the mix, DFR programs have been able to achieve scalability. One notable example is Citymesh's Safety Drone Project, which serves as a classic case study on the country-wide implementation of automated response systems.

Emergency service departments can now respond with greater efficiency and receive accurate information about the incident scene within minutes. By enabling drones to fly autonomously from drone docks to the location of incidents to capture images and live HD video feeds that are transmitted to command centers in real time, the entire process has been simplified.

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But did you know that there are a variety of other applications for on-demand automated drone response systems that are currently being implemented around the world?

Let's look at a few of them.

Automated Pipeline ROW Encroachment Incident Response

Pipeline encroachment poses a significant safety concern, often threatening the integrity and reliability of natural gas pipelines. Encroachments within pipeline easements include anything from piling up heavy materials to digging near a pipeline without permission.

To mitigate the risk, it is common practice among pipeline operators to install acoustic technology that can monitor pipelines accurately for leak detection and third-party interference, including encroachment attempts.

These systems trigger an alarm if there are any disturbances along the length of the pipeline in real-time. But these systems do not send any visual information for operators to understand the situation better.

The energy industry traditionally conducts inspections through ground patrols using ATVs or foot patrols as well as aerial surveys via helicopters to visually detect any releases or encroachments. However, these methods are labor-intensive, expensive, and potentially dangerous.

With advancements in autonomous drone technology, these alarm systems can now be integrated with software platforms that allow them to autonomously send a drone to the geolocation of the alert and relay live HD video feed, allowing operators to quickly inspect the asset and respond to the incident.

Pipeline Encroachment Incident Response
Pipeline Encroachment Incident Response

Automated Railyard and Track Inspections

Railyards are typically large areas with a plethora of tracks, locomotives, and railcars. As a result, their sheer size makes the inspection process time-consuming and logistically difficult. Because of the high level of activity in railyards, with trains arriving and departing on a regular basis, inspection windows are limited.

Rail inspectors typically conduct inspections by walking or driving along the tracks in vehicles equipped with rail wheels (Hy-rail trucks). They measure the gauge and inspect the track to identify any structural or mechanical problems. Manual track inspections, on the other hand, can be inefficient, time-consuming, and require additional personnel.


To counteract these challenges, many rail yards are now utilizing advanced technologies to assist the inspection process, such as yard management solutions capable of monitoring and managing incoming trains, assigning optimal lanes for incoming trains, and accessing detailed information on trains in and out of the yard, among other things.

By integrating the yard management solution with software solutions that automate drone operations, the alarm is raised when a track is empty, and the drone launches automatically to inspect the track quickly before the train occupies it. The drone carries out inspections of switches on the track to detect anomalies like cracks, corrosion, and more.

Rail companies are now integrating these yard management solutions with software solutions that allow for autonomous drone operations. When a track is detected to be empty, a ping is generated on the dashboard, and the drone is launched autonomously to inspect the track before the train occupies it. The drone inspects track switches for anomalies such as cracks, corrosion, and other issues.

Railyard and Track Inspection
Railyard and Track Inspection

Traffic Management with Drones

Intensified by the rapid growth of urban areas, which has outpaced the development and maintenance of infrastructure, increased vehicle ownership, and changes in transportation technologies, efficient management of traffic has become a critical issue.

Traffic tools such as Waze help users visualize traffic in their area, monitor conditions along key routes, get push notifications for important changes, and store data for reference over time. Users can also see road closures, incidents, and traffic jam data on the Waze map.

Integrating autonomous drone ops software solutions can significantly improve traffic management efficacy. Drones can be programmed to launch autonomously from docks and quickly reach accident sites by connecting to traffic tools like Waze. The drone's live video footage and images help traffic officials make informed decisions and reduce traffic congestion.

Their high-resolution imaging capabilities not only provide real-time traffic updates but also allow for precise and efficient accident scene reconstruction. The collected data is also shared with a third-party map service for storage and analysis, allowing for the identification of common issues that contribute to traffic congestion.

Traffic Management Systems
Traffic Management Systems

Wondering What Magic Makes These Integrations Come to Life? 

Say hello to FlytBase.

FlytBase is an enterprise software platform for automating drone operations with drone docks for a wide range of applications. It enables users to remotely monitor, manage, and control a hybrid and distributed fleet of drones and docking stations.

A standout feature of FlytBase is its ability to seamlessly integrate with third-party applications. These include, among other things, Video Management Systems (VMS) for enhanced security operations and Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) systems for increased airspace awareness.

FlytBase also enables users to manage multiple alarm sources. In the event of an incident, remote operators are instantly notified on their FlytBase dashboard. These real-time alerts provide critical data, including the exact location of the incident and crucial information pertaining to it. 

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Users can receive custom basic information like alarm type, severity, latitude, longitude, timestamp, event ID, and additional metadata if required to create custom workflows. 

This information allows operators to swiftly deploy the right drone to the incident site.

This swift response is especially useful in asset inspection and incident response scenarios, providing immediate insights and allowing for prompt action. FlytBase also allows users to manage multiple alarm sources in case they have alarms in multiple sites, making it a very scalable solution.

Here's a quick video that demonstrates how alarm response works in FlytBase.

In a nutshell, real-time, automated, yet on-demand incident responses via drones don't just respond swiftly to incidents or streamline asset inspections—they're also a time and effort saver. The best part of being automated? You can be anywhere in the world and be monitoring your assets or responding to an incident with a single click.

Whether it's responding to a 911 call, detecting a pipeline encroachment, inspecting a vacant railway track, or managing traffic, autonomous drones are making a critical difference and entering a new era of efficiency and safety.

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Baisali Ghosh

As a Marcom Manager at FlytBase, Baisali oversees the content strategy, creation, and management! With over 7 years of experience in the drone industry and 3 years of it at FlytBase, she’s a self-proclaimed drone fanatic and is obsessed with all things geographical. In 2022, she has been recognized as the “Women to Watch in UAS” for AI/Autonomy category by Women and Drones.

When she’s not busy hosting FlytBase’s webinar series or organizing NestGen - a global drone autonomy focused event, you can find her exploring the Patagonian Desert, the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, or the Yellowstone Caldera on Google Earth.

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