Drone another tool in the EH Fire & EMS toolbox

Drone another tool in the EH Fire & EMS toolbox
Dave Mast

Cornelius Martin, a member of the East Holmes Fire and EMS crew, already had his regular pilot license, so it made sense for the department to name him as one of the pilots who is certified to operate the new drone system.


Sometimes when people talk, they drone on and on and on, but for members of the East Holmes Fire and EMS, they would love nothing more than to drone on.

A recent purchase of a new drone system will enhance the department’s efforts not only for itself, but the drone could come in handy in aiding other efforts around the county.

EH Fire & EMS was the first public safety organization in Holmes County to purchase a drone, and it has quickly become a credible piece of equipment that can aid the department in many ways.

“It’s another tool to put in our toolbox,” said East Holmes Fire & EMS chief John Schlabach. “It’s something we didn’t have in the county, and we would have had to get a drone from Coshocton or Tuscarawas County. This is something that is being promoted more and more in the fire and EMS community.

“It’s an incredibly valuable tool that will benefit our community and our county.”

The drone can be used in situations like Hazmat and rescue scenes, underwater dive calls where they can take an aerial look at the water for the East Holmes dive team, missing person cases for situations like escaped convicts or dementia patients who have wandered away from their home, in which the drone’s thermal imaging provides a reading on heat signatures, and even public relation events.

The drone is registered, its capabilities state-of-the-art. The drone has settings that will automatically bring it back to its origination point, can carry payload, fly up to close to 50-miles-per-hour and weighs in at about 15 pounds. It comes with a charging station that keeps three sets of batteries fully operational. It is equipped with a fully operational camera that swings 360-degrees and is so perfectly balanced that the camera remains still despite what turns and changes in height it takes and what winds it faces. Each set of batteries will provide 45-minutes of fly time, operates in any type of weather element, and allows the department to utilize it in any circumstances.

“It’s really a versatile piece of equipment that is going to enhance not only what we can do, but it will also be available for other departments to use when a need arises,” Schlabach said.

Schlabach said the drone will run through a pre-flight checklist before it is sent up, checking all the various satellites near it. It is also easily assembled and can be put into flight in a matter of just several minutes

“In instances where every second counts, having the ability to get it into the air quickly is invaluable,” Schlabach said.

When the drone is surveying a certain area, it provides live feedback to a monitor that the pilot is looking at while operating the drone, and it projects to a larger screen in the response command unit for greater viewership. There is also a second control unit that would allow someone to operate the camera while the pilot operates the flight path. It’s range finder allows the pilot to know how far away an object or person is at any moment.

The attachable camera has a 200-times zoom lens and can lock onto and follow vehicles or people.

“We could track a rabbit in a field if we wanted to,” said Schlabach, who has earned his pilot license. “The technology is pretty impressive.”

While training is ongoing for the new piece of equipment, one of the first team members to learn how to fly it was Cornelius Martin, who also has his pilot license. He had to take additional courses in obtaining a drone license, but it came quickly. Having some working knowledge of the sky is always beneficial in helping a team member gain a solid grasp on working the drone, and Martin said he was excited to be able to try out the new system.

“It definitely helps understanding airspace,” Martin said. “It’s a very different experience from flying a plane, but it is an extremely valuable tool that we will put to good use in aiding. The people of Holmes County.”

East Holmes Fire has already put the drone to good use outside of their own department work, having gone out on a mutual call with the Holmes County Sheriff’s Department. It has already provided great value for East Holmes Fire & EMS.

Schlabach said the only way the purchase was available was because of the strong support the department gets from the community.

“This is to benefit them, so that relationship was key to us being able to make this purchase,” Schlabach said.

With the drone technology continuing to advance, people in Holmes County shouldn’t be surprised to see and hear the drone as it does its job in assisting the department so they can successfully serve the people in the community when the need arises.

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