City drones set to take off
It’s been talked about it for years, but this could be the summer the city’s fleet of drones takes to the sky. Drones are already being used to monitor the beaches following a shark attack or shark sighting in California. In Australia, lifeguards have added a mega phone to give audible warnings.
HONOLULU - It’s been talked about it for years, but this could be the summer the city’s fleet of drones takes to the sky.
Drones are already being used to monitor the beaches following a shark attack or shark sighting in California.
In Australia, lifeguards have added a mega phone to give audible warnings.
Honolulu’s Jim Howe recalls giving the all-clear following a shark event, was the toughest decision that weighed on his shoulders as Ocean Safety's operations manager.
Now, as Director of Emergency Services, he can’t wait to roll the drones out.
"This way we can do it more timely but we can do it more often. We don’t have to rely on one flyover, but we can do these flyovers as the event is transpiring and make a better decision for the public's interest to say when it’s safe to go back in the water," said Howe.
Just last week, Howe just submitted a list of names to the FAA.
The team of five from Ocean Safety will be trained and licensed to fly the drones.
The plan is to expand the reach to remote areas not manned by lifeguards, places like Makapuu tide pools,where a father and daughter died recently.
“There’s very difficult access, very limited safety services and the waves wash right over that edge. If you are at the wrong place at the wrong time it’s pretty hard to get help there," said Howe.
Howe thinks a drone dispatched from Sandy Beach could help not only respond to emergencies there, but prevent tragedies in the first place.
"We can fly the drone rapidly, do a situational assessment and see what the conditions are and then get the word to the public whether its a good day or not to go those places," said Howe.
But Ocean safety isn’t the only department with its eye in the sky.
Honolulu Firefighters would have an added tool in a chemical spill.
And following a storm Emergency Management and the Parks Department could access remote locations to deal with downed trees or power lines.
Howe recalls what happened during the 2011 tsunami that created a dangerous situation for boaters thinking that it was safe to return through the channel at Keehi Lagoon.
"What we could have done is flown the drone right from this location here we could have flown our drone and we could have put it out in the channel and would have had a good information source to tell the boaters to come in or not,' said Howe.
So whether it's sharks or storms, preventing casualties and responding to emergencies, drones will be coming to the rescue.
"It really gives us the information we need without putting our first responders at risk to get a look at it," said Howe.
The city agencies that plan to add drones in their tool box also include the Honolulu Police Department, Department of Information Technology, and Environmental Services.