The Airborne International Response Team (AIRT), the official home of DRONERESPONDERS and the leading 501(c)3 organization supporting Drones For Good for emergencies, recently announced a combined initiative to develop a global, geo-referenced database of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) programs and emergency response remote pilots.
Unveiled during AUVSI’s XPONENTIAL, the virtual edition of the world’s largest unmanned systems conference, the AIRT project offers two separate tracks for UAS resources to be registered. Public safety agencies and emergency services organizations who are either developing, or have an active UAS program, can register via teams.droneresponders.org. Individual remote pilots who have the skills and capabilities to respond in complex emergencies should sign up at disasterpilots.org.
U.S-based public safety UAS teams and individual remote pilots who register under the AIRT/DRONERSPONDERS program will have the option of requesting inclusion in the Incident Resource Inventory System (IRIS), the inventory resource tool distributed by FEMA and used by emergency managers for identifying potential resources for responding to incidents. IRIS submissions will be pre-qualified to assess whether they meet FEMA's small UAS Resource Typing requirements.
The project, conducted in direct partnership with the global market leader in location intelligence, Esri, will expand upon work previously started by Brandon Karr, a national small UAS subject matter expert for public safety applications from Pearland, Texas.
In 2020, Karr started the project after identifying the need to map the locations of law enforcement, fire/EMS, industry, non-governmental organizations and federal programs that could provide mutual assistance to other jurisdictions. Karr has now transferred the project over to DRONERESPONDERS, where he will serve as the project manager overseeing the initiative. Jeff Alexander, a GIS Specialist from Pearland, will assist Karr in expanding the public safety UAS program mapping project on a larger scale.
“There is an incredible need for a comprehensive geo-referenced directory of public safety drone programs to help facilitate information sharing, training, and mutual assistance,” Karr says. “Working with AIRT, DRONERESPONDERS, and the Esri public safety team will help us increase the reach of this initiative around the globe.”
Karr says the ability of GIS to capture, analyze and display data makes it an ideal platform for identifying where public safety drone programs are located, and which geographic locations they can service. But not every public safety agency has an active drone program, and those that do may not always have resources available for deployment. For that reason, AIRT is simultaneously launching a second initiative that will identify the location of individual remote pilots who possess the ability to respond to emergencies and disasters.
“DRONERESPONDERS will mark the home base and capabilities of the public safety UAS teams, and our AIRT GIS team will track the location of individual remote pilots with the proper experience and equipment to assist during emergencies,” says Christopher Todd, executive director of AIRT. “Within a few months, I expect we should have a database highlighting theorld’s Largest Air Force of geo-referenced, unmanned aviation assets for emergency response operations.”
The organization will soon deploy Esri ArcGIS Dashboards and geo-referenced ArcGIS StoryMaps that illustrate the quantity and location of registered emergency drone assets around the world. Todd credits the close working relationship that AIRT and DRONERESPONDERS have developed with the Esri Partner and Public Safety teams for enabling the expansion of Karr and Alexander’s original project, along with the rapid deployment of the new remote pilot tracking component that AIRT is launching.
DRONERESPONDERS also worked with interns on loan from the NASA Ames Research Institute to help transition the project. AIRT coordinated with the National Alliance for Public Safety GIS (NAPSG) on how best to integrate the UAS resource component into FEMA’s IRIS.
“This initiative is a combined team effort to make positive impacts and ultimately save lives,” Todd says. “We invite other partners to join this project and help us illustrate the true potential of Drones For Good on a global scale.”