The fire service has announced plans to deploy operational drones in a test project cover three zones in Namur and Hainaut provinces.
The project is not yet up and running, but one zone commander in Charleroi explained how the equipment might be used. “The drone can take off immediately, and would clearly be more rapid-response in an intervention scenario,” Commander Fabrice Pierard told the RTBF. “It could, using technological means such as a camera, pass information quickly to the squad chief still under way to the scene. And that would permit the immediate deployment of the necessary resources, without having to call over and over.”
Charleroi has been chosen in particular because of the extent of the zone, the size of the population, the presence of a number of Seveso installations – companies subject to special emergency protocols because of the presence of hazardous materials – and of course the airport.
Once arrived at the scene, the drone would have access to vantage points not available to humans, such as overflying the scene, in order to pass crucial information to the squad on the ground. “When there is a fire of some size, we cannot always get a global view,” said Pierard. “So this would be one more tool for the squad chef to use to help guide the firefighters taking part in the intervention.”
The Charleroi service, in addition, also have experience using technological aids, as they already have a robot which is able to enter a burning building where no human can go. Such a robot was brought into service last year at the time of the fire that consumed the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.