Knowing that drones are not only cool but also fast becoming “must-haves” in the emergency management toolbox, BOLDplanning thoroughly enjoys giving them away during conferences and exhibitions throughout the year. In 2019 alone, the company provided DJI® Spark Mini-Drones to nearly 20 lucky winners across the country. Among them was Steven O’Neil, emergency management coordinator for Cerro Gordo County, Iowa, who attended the 2019 Iowa Homeland Security Conference in Des Moines last fall. The prize has since been added (as number four) to the county’s fleet of drones.

Cerro Gordo’s fleet is operated by two local pilots, both of whom have earned Remote Pilot Certification (Part 107) through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The two also serve on the county’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), which is sponsored by the county emergency management office, and provides assistance, e.g., fire rehabilitation, flood-fighting, disaster medical operations, and search and rescue (SAR) during certain situations. One of the two drone pilots is Bob Harris, who joined North Iowa CERT in 2008.

Harris, of course, is a firm believer in the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for emergency management purposes. He knows that the camera-equipped drones allow responders to see places they might not otherwise be able to see, much less access, in times of trouble. This includes flooded roadways, neighborhoods and business districts after heavy rains, as well as communities isolated by downed trees and power lines following strong storms or tornadoes.

In these and other instances, the aerial footage captured by the drones provides emergency management an initial scope of damage. Officials can see exactly what they are up against, decide how and where best to access the area(s), and determine the resources needed, among other things. The drones also aid in the completion of onsite damage assessments, which are mandatory before filing disaster declarations.

Just as important, Harris believes drone technology is worth its weight in gold when it comes to SAR missions. “Time is of the essence in missing person situations,” he said. “Sending the drones up helps us cover more ground faster and without disturbing any valuable evidence under foot.”

Harris especially likes the compact size and ease of deployment of the new DJI® Spark Mini-Drone. “The new drone can be carried in a case over the shoulder and put up into the air in just a matter of minutes,” he said. “And because it’s the least expensive drone in Cerro Gordo’s fleet, it’s a good choice for flying over cliffs and into steep ravines where the risk of an accident is increased.”

“That’s not to say Cerro Gordo County and its CERT don’t appreciate and value the free mini-drone from BOLDplanning,” added Harris. “We certainly do.”

Given the popularity and success of its drone giveaway in 2019, BOLDplanning will continue offering the DJI® Spark Mini-Drone during conferences and exhibitions in 2020. So, keep your eyes peeled for the next opportunity to win (and add to your emergency management toolbox) like Cerro Gordo County, Iowa.