Airborne drone use is no longer just for hobbyists hoping to get a good photo or video, but an efficient way to complete many tasks and even save lives, according to the staff of a nationwide drone applications company based in the Garden State.
“Since our inception, we saw significant advantages (of drone use) in several sectors, public safety being one of them,” ABJ Drones CEO Vip Jain said, seated at a conference table in the company’s second floor office in Cranbury Township. “We see advantages working in public safety with the police departments, fire departments and disaster management. There are a lot of capabilities we have that increase significantly the value officials can bring to the public.”
The company is the nationwide enterprise distributor for DJI, the leading drone manufacturer in the world as well as for FLIR thermal imaging cameras and Zenmuse high-end photography and videography camera equipment.
It is currently expanding its operations into Canada and Europe, providing total commercial and industrial drone solutions for agencies and companies.
ABJ Drones is presenting comprehensive solutions to several public safety entities in New Jersey by appearing at meetings of governing bodies and making special presentations to law enforcement, fire departments and disaster management organizations.
Part of the company’s varied approaches, included the “Eyes In The Sky” program for public safety professionals and volunteers, bringing the new technology to organizations dedicated to protecting lives.
ABJ’s Client Project Manager Mike Alba oversees the program and showing various public safety organizations how they can integrate the technology into their operations to save time, money and, most importantly, the lives of their staff and the public.
“We have programs to support police and fire departments, emergency response teams and disaster management,” Alba said. “What we have to do right now is educate them on how drones can enhance their operations.”
Alba said the company can provide the hardware, software, support, and training to get the organizations up and running in using the technology to better serve their communities.
As an example, drones can be used to inspect the roof of a building that is on fire without risking firefighters, or to even see the thermal images of people who may be trapped inside the structure.
Because of the advanced photo, video, and thermal imaging equipment the drones can employ, the results can give better information to the command staff in real time, so they can make informed decisions on how to approach the situation in the safest and most efficient manner, he said.
“In about a minute, you can send the drone up and see what the roof looks like in terms of fire, if it’s safe to send (firefighters) in, if it’s safe to send them around the back. That is something you can’t do as quickly without a drone.”
Alba said that agencies could hire helicopter pilots to do the same kinds of things, but the costs are high in both money and the time to get a pilot to the scene, wasting valuable minutes.
“The speed that you can put a drone up there onsite, offering that aerial advantage is unparalleled,” he said. “It’s the response time. The helicopter pilot is not sitting in the fire station ready to jump in his helicopter to fly over (the scene).”
Alba said that by training and supplying the firefighters themselves with the technology, the drones can be deployed quickly when the responders arrive on the scene.
“They are the ones that are ready to go,” he said. “It’s hard to put a price tag on that when you are looking at sending people into a building that may be ready to collapse.”
For police, drones can help locating missing people or to keep an eye on a suspect that is trying to evade capture.
In those cases, cameras with night vision can continue searching when the sun goes down and other types of searches are called off.
“(Drones) really promote public safety,” he said.
There is, of course, a huge advantage to the technology in the case of disasters when it comes to locating victims or inspecting buildings and infrastructure for damage that could hamper rescue efforts, Jain said.
“We are working with several disaster agencies and counties in Pennsylvania to address an emergency much faster with a lot more capability,” Jain said.
Private companies can also use the technology to enhance security and inspection operations, Jain said.
In addition to the public safety areas, drones are also being used for inspection and land surveys, cutting the time and cost of such tasks significantly, he said.
“A survey of land that normally takes 30 days can now be done at about five percent of the cost, in a matter of hours,” he said. “The (information) quality is better than they would have had.”
Jain said the drones can be used for a variety of tasks because the payloads can be changed, with some drones able to carry as much as 10 lbs.
The payloads can consist of different types of cameras to carrying materials to give to people, such as a rescue line to people trapped on a roof during a flood, allowing for their rescue.
“You have different flying platforms, different payloads,” he said. “You have to understand the differences well.”
The company has a nationwide network of more than 250 certified pilots that can respond to a variety of jobs.
Recently, the company took part in the search for a documentary filmmaker who disappeared while diving in the ocean off the Florida Keys.
The family called the company and a Miami-based pilot was on the scene the next morning, Jain said.
While the company can, and does, do individual jobs in a variety of commercial and industrial situations, it also works to develop drone solutions for agencies and companies to be able to fulfill their own needs as they arrive.
This is the part of the business that Jain said he is the proudest of, being able to consult with, and provide services, that completely fill a client’s needs.