CINCINNATI - Over the years, drones have helped professionals and everyday people capture epic photos and videos like never before. And they’re even helping first responders when dispatched to emergency calls.
Blue Ash Police Lt. Steve Schueler is one of the members of the Southwest Ohio Regional Public Safety Drone Team, also known as UAS 500.
When needed on the scene of an emergency, he uses the Matric 210 Aircraft because he said it's been useful with, “Some fire scenes, we’ve used them for missing people, searching for suspects on the ground, and crime scene mapping.”
Schueler said having the drone's assistance really makes a huge difference.
“Anytime you can imagine if you have an emergency situation where you can put an eye in the sky and look down and get a different perspective on things is very, very helpful,” he said.
Katie Thielmeyer is a Woodlawn firefighter and the program manager of UAS 500. The team is made up of fire and police departments across Hamilton County including Woodlawn and Blue Ash. They’ve also partnered with 859 Board Up, a damage restoration service.
“We started off by building a drone using some grant money that we had and from there, I got really interested in creating the program itself and learning how we could use this drone,” she said.
Once the first responders are on the scene, the drones can be deployed in as quickly as 30 seconds and reach altitudes as high as 400 feet. The drones have helped with numerous emergency situations, like the time when the Woodlawn Fire Department was able to locate missing children inside a home.
“We were just in the right place at the right time with that aerial view and who knows, these kids may have been gone forever,” she said.
Woodlawn Fire Department Chief Amos Johnson is also a member of UAS 500. Not only does he know how to work the drones, but the software as well. The team uses a drone scene, which has a map that allows you to see where the drones are in real-time without even being on the scene.
“I can be at my computer, I can be at home looking at this,” said Johnson. “ I can be at a vehicle looking at this versus being on the scene. So this gives command a better bird's eye view of what’s going on a mile away, two miles away, even 10 miles away.”
In order to keep this program going, Thielmeyer says they’ll need more sponsors. They’ll be holding fundraisers to help with funding for the drones.
“It’s just another tool we can use just like using our thermal imaging cameras, ladders, weapons,” she said. “It’s just another tool of something we can go to and keep us safe and give us our situational awareness.”
UAS 500 will be hosting its Inaugural First Responders Benefit Ride July 24. For more information visit the Southwest Ohio Regional Public Safety Drone Team Facebook Page.