Drone purchase could happen soon in Langford

Committee carefully ponders all aspects of decision

Langford Fire Rescue could be flying its own unmanned aircraft system (UAS) during future rescue and emergency situations.

On Tuesday, Langford’s protective services committee unanimously approved a staff recommendation to purchase a UAS – essentially a drone equipped with cameras. The purchase needs only to be approved by council.

“It saves time, it saves lives and I think it lowers the risk to our personnel,” said Coun. Lillian Szpak, who chairs the committee. “The committee did a good job of weighing the pros and the cons … All points were pondered, positive and negative.”

A key point raised by committee members was that Langford is often on the leading edge when it comes to embracing equipment improvements, Szpak said. Langford Fire Rescue was the first department on the West Shore to purchase its own jaws of life device, she added, and in the spirit of co-operation has been able to use that technology to aid other municipalities when in dire straits.

The committee expected the purchase of a drone system to inspire other jurisdictions to look into purchasing their own.

“When it’s deployed it’s for life saving measures,” Szpak said.

In August, the protective services committee requested follow up information to better understand the need for a camera-equipped UAS for emergency services.

Szpak said the fire chief and staff came back with an in-depth report for discussion at Tuesday’s meeting. The report stated that the cost of the equipment, with appropriate cameras, would be $5,000 and would be expected to get five years of operational life from the device.

Training costs for four initial operators (one staff firefighter and three volunteers) are expected to be $2,750 and their training time would exceed the 10-hour minimum on the equipment. Trainees would also have a UAS available for practice, over and above a unit purchased by the department.

The option of hiring a contractor to operate the device was also explored in the report, but the 30- to 90-minute response time was said to not allow incident commanders timely access to critical information in an emergency.

The Langford Firefighter’s Women Auxiliary has indicated that they are prepared to purchase the unmanned aerial vehicle for the department.

“That’s something that we’re very appreciative of,” said Szpak, adding that training would be covered by the department’s training budget.

Council will consider the recommendation at Monday’s (Dec. 7) meeting.

katie@goldstreamgazette.com