Autonomous Drones for Public Safety and Emergency Response Skip to main content

Tyler, Texas-based Phirst Technologies, LLC – a technology-led, public safety solutions provider – is an early adopter of autonomous drone fleets for emergency response. This is indicative of the increasing adoption of UAVs by public safety agencies, police & fire departments, emergency operations centers and other stakeholders for disaster monitoring, real-time situational awareness, search & rescue missions, firefighting, law enforcement surveillance, and other use-cases.

FIRST iZ for First Responders

At AUVSI Xponential 2019 in Chicago, Phil Burks (CEO at Phirst Technologies and Genesis Group) shared his experience in integrating autonomous drones into the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system used for 911 emergency operations in the US. Phil’s company has launched FIRST iZ – a drone-centric ‘First Eyes for First Responders’ offering for Public Safety Access Points (PSAPs).

As Phil B. puts it, “FIRST iZ™ is a drone system programmed to autonomously fly to incidents at 60+ mph, send live video while in transit, sniff for hazardous gases, hover while still sending live video, and allow commanders to know what they are facing before they dispatch vehicles and people.”

FlytBase is proud to provide the drone automation technology that powers FIRST iZ and enables drone public safety missions, seamlessly integrated into, and managed via, a unified operations dashboard for 911 dispatchers. Traditional computer-aided-dispatch (CAD) offerings need to be augmented to incorporate drone fleet operations, as a complement to ambulances, fire trucks, etc.

Public Safety Use-cases

The key to emergency response is how fast the central command center, and first responders, can gain situational awareness of an incident, allocate the optimal resources, and rapidly deploy them on site. Phil B. shares his experience in how autonomous drones, powered by intelligent software, can reduce this time by up to an order of magnitude, thereby potentially saving thousands of lives.

Public Safety & ERDrones for emergency services have been in the news in recent years – supporting disaster management during hurricanes and floods, when aerial search and rescue is often the only viable option. The next logical step in deploying drones for public safety is to install fleets of autonomous drones ‘in a box’ at strategic locations in populated areas, ready to support police, fire, disaster recovery and other emergency services at a moment’s notice.

Technology & Regulation

Low-latency, real-time HD video feeds, combined with remote camera gimbal control, turn out to be a crucial capability in drone solutions for incident response – by providing timely, relevant input to decision-makers at centralized operations centers. Similarly, cloud-based drone fleet management and intelligent path planning help public safety chiefs and UAV program managers schedule, execute and repeat autonomous missions as part of a larger automation-led surveillance operation.

Nearly all public safety missions are outdoors – making airspace regulatory compliance crucial to such operations. No-fly zones near airports, temporary aerial restrictions during disasters, political/public events, etc. directly impact the feasibility of drone flights. Thus, static as well as real-time airspace information was utilized by FlytBase’s intelligent path-planning and navigation modules to ensure UTM compliance.

As for the pace of adoption of drone automation across the entire public safety sector, Phirst Technologies is confident about the confluence of a) legal and regulatory tail-winds and b) drone hardware and software technology advancements. While technology leads the two today, Phil expects regulators (eg. FAA) to turn even more supportive of drone programs that benefit society at large – especially those that are security and privacy conscious, well thought out and diligently documented, and driven by reliable technology.

To sum it up in Phil’s words, “All we are asking the 911 dispatcher to do is just click one button to dispatch a drone – and after that, we want so much smarts in the software that it can autonomously know where it’s going, know the best route, and know what video to capture. This is made possible by FlytBase given their technology expertise, ground control software and drone automation capabilities.”

To learn more about FIRST iZ visit: