Drone to assist Carpentersville with public safety calls

  • The Carpentersville Fire Department purchased the village's first drone earlier this summer after Firefighter Matt Tracy introduced the concept to the village.

      The Carpentersville Fire Department purchased the village's first drone earlier this summer after Firefighter Matt Tracy introduced the concept to the village. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Carpentersville's new drone is expected to help public safety officials with search and rescue missions, fire investigations, accident reconstructions and other calls.

      Carpentersville's new drone is expected to help public safety officials with search and rescue missions, fire investigations, accident reconstructions and other calls. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 8/30/2017 3:29 PM

Carpentersville is implementing a program for using new drone technology to assist with search and rescue missions, fire investigations and other public safety calls.

The fire department purchased one drone earlier this summer after Firefighter Matt Tracy introduced the concept to village leaders. The technology is expected to make operations faster, safer and more efficient, he said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

So far, Tracy is the only staff member who has been trained and licensed to use the drone, as required by the Federal Aviation Administration. Chief John-Paul Schilling said he expects two police officers and six firefighters -- two per shift -- to go through the certification process over the next couple years.

"This is still in its infancy," he said. "We're moving along at a cautious pace, but we're already starting to see the dividends from it."

The drone, which has a 4½-mile range, can help crews determine the best access point for fighting a fire, assist with accident reconstructions, and aid police in finding a suspect, Tracy said. The drone's camera can lock onto a person and track them until public safety officials can get there.

It has already been used while searching for a missing person and to survey the Fox River during recent flooding.

The drone package, including batteries, chargers and an iPad for displaying images, cost roughly $3,000 and was partially funded by the village's Foreign Fire Insurance Board, Tracy said. His training and certification cost another $750.

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Though its primary mission is public safety, Schilling said, the drone can also take promotional videos for special events, advertise vacant commercial properties or show the progress of road construction projects.

"It's a good program (and) a good piece of equipment for the fire department, police department and every other department in the village," he said. "There's just a multitude of different advantages of having something like this."

Public safety officials will also weigh the cost and benefits of purchasing drones with more advanced technology, such as zoom capabilities or infrared cameras, in the future, Schilling said. Some drones can even carry a life jacket or other objects to people in trouble.

"We're going to monitor the drone world, and if something better comes along and we can show the good things that come out of having better technology, then we'll be looking at doing something like that," Schilling said. "This is just another tool in our toolbox to make sure we provide the best public safety that we can."

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