CASE STUDY: Drone Helps HAZMAT Team Assess Dangers at Train Derailment


SUMMARY: Drones are an essential tool for helping Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT) response teams conduct a rapid aerial, and up-close assessment of incidents in which they respond to. UAV's can feed photos and videos back to subject matter experts located around the world to help assess dangers and risks associated with a HAZMAT response.

PROBLEM: In spring 2016, a train derailment in Callaway, Minnesota had the region on edge. Potentially hazardous materials may pose significant problems to the environment and nearby communities. First responders neede to conduct a rapid assessment of the incident to obtain accurate situational awareness about the derailment and the dangerous it may contain. HAZMAT teams needed to know where to begin their response.

SOLUTION: A unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was deployed to fly over the wreckage and assess the scope of the incident. The UAV, a $12,000 DSI Seeker which was donated to the Perham Fire Department, captured imagery from the scene and quickly returned with essential data for first responders. The imagery was then downloaded by the incident command staff for analysis, and also sent via email to other subject matter experts for further study and input.

"We were able to get up close without putting anyone in harm's way," said Mark Schmidt, Perham Fire Chief. "The quality of the film was very clear -- it was like watching TV. The drone technology saves time, money, resources, and possibly lives."

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