There were plenty of announcements made at this year’s DJI Enterprise Airworks Conference. As well as launching a new web application for commercial UAV teams, FlightHub, the industry’s leading manufacturer accelerated and formalized an ongoing partnership with the Menlo Park Fire Protection District (FPD) – the service responsible for dealing with fires and other emergency situations in California’s Menlo Park.
DJI has designated the Menlo park agency as a ‘Solution Development Partner’. In practice, this means that the relationship between the two is going to the next level with a view toward the bigger picture. They will aim to develop uses for drones in emergency response and post-incident missions.
According to a statement from DJI, Menlo Park FPD will test customized solutions developed by the Chinese manufacturer for the public safety sector. In recent months, DJI and Menlo Park FPD have worked together to respond to local and national emergencies, from fires to water rescue to hurricanes.
Making a difference
The recent Santa Rosa fire was the first time the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection authorized drone flights as part of the emergency response in a large-scale disaster. Usually drone pilots are castigated for flying near wildfires, but the Menlo Park FPD used DJI equipment to provide situational awareness for authorities, assist with search and recovery efforts, survey destroyed neighborhoods and highlight the positive impact that drone technology can make.
“Our partnership with Menlo Park FPD has given us valuable opportunities to see firsthand how our platforms perform out on the field, allowing us to incorporate real-life learnings into the ongoing improvement of our hardware and software capabilities,” said Romeo Durscher, Director of Education at DJI.
“In just the last few months, we have seen our aerial platforms play a critical role in supporting emergency response efforts during and after a disaster, such as the Yosemite Fire, Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma and the recent Santa Rosa fire.”
Beta testing FlightHub
Menlo Park FPD is now beta-testing DJI’s FlightHub – a new web-based drone management platform – to see how it can improve fire-rescue operations. FlightHub gives companies and organizations operating multiple drones a way to track and organize teams in real-time.
In return for offering hands-on training on its aerial platforms for Menlo Park FPD personnel, DJI has collected valuable product feedback from various joint exercises throughout the collaboration so far.
“Working closely with DJI the past 18 months has enabled us to better understand just how much more utility we can get from their aerial drone platforms,” said Harold Schapelhouman, Fire Chief at Menlo Park FPD.
“Our collaboration in Santa Rosa produced a tremendous amount of insightful data that has helped us develop a plan of action and manage our resources more efficiently during this critical time. As they experience the pain points of coordinating disaster operations and on-site data transfer, we discover more ways in which we can push the boundaries of aerial technology to better serve the community.”