drone certificationMadison County EMA launches new drone program

August 19, 2021by helo-10

WOOD RIVER — Madison County’s Emergency Management Agency (EMA) has launched a new drone program under its Bureau of Air Operations.

The DJI Matrice drone that the agency houses and deploys has already been used at several local incidents including a large structure fire at the McDonald’s restaurant on Broadway in Alton and at the June rail car leak in Wood River.

“We currently have three FAA Part 107 Licensed SUAS Pilots, including Captain Matthew Bogard,” EMA Director Tony Falconio said. “They have all gone through lots of training and put in the time to get these certifications.”

Members of the drone deployment team took multiple training courses though the Western Illinois University GIS Center and School of Law Enforcement and Justice Administration and with the collaboration of the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board Executive Institute. Since attending, the team has developed their own training aids and courses based on the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s standard test methods for small-unmanned aircraft systems.

“We plan on taking the knowledge we have gained and sharing it,” Falconio said about EMA’s plan to create coordinated trainings. “We will be able to respond to real world incidents with multiple local and federal agencies in different locations throughout the county.”

In addition to deploying the drone for structure fires, hazmat incidents and missing person searches, it also will be deployed to survey damage for the National Weather Service when severe storms impact the county.

With the team’s certifications established, Falconio said the next step they hope to take is applying for grants to upgrade the technology they have.

“We’d like to get grant funding to upgrade to quickly deployable drones with higher quality infrared and video capabilities,” Falconio said.

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