PHOENIX (KSAZ) - The Phoenix Fire Department has some new sets of eyes in the sky which could help first responders save more lives. Drones are the newest tools for search and rescue crews in the Valley.
Phoenix Firefighters have flown their new drones in two search operations so far, including the recent search for a missing ATV driver.
Part of Adam Skiver's duties as a Phoenix Firefighter, now includes being a pilot. Working with the group, Arizona Search Dogs, firefighters currently use two drones outfitted with a high definition camera.
They've been deployed in two search-and-rescue operations so far.
"The drone gives us great capability. It can fly over a large area and rule out areas. Hopefully we can find him but even if we don't find him we can say 'hey this area was covered'," said Skiver.
Under FAA regulations, firefighters can fly the drone up to 400 feet in the air.The other advantage of using drones is they can get lower to the ground and give searchers a close up view of what is down there and what they are looking for.
Firefighters can monitor the video on scene using an iPad. The drone's camera also records video onto an SD card.
"We see it real time but after the fact we pull that out, take it back, and review the video to see if we missed anything," said Skiver.
More than just a visual aid, firefighters say drones can work longer in the extreme heat, sparing search crews exposure to the triple digit temperatures and potentially dangerous terrain.
"Our work cycle is a lot less in the summer time because it's hot. Dogs can't run as long. People can't run as long, whereas the drone we can sit in the front seat of an air-conditioned truck and fly the drone and it saves people," said Skiver.
Firefighters say they are still discovering all the different ways the drones can help save lives.
The Phoenix Fire Department is planning on buying at least a couple more drones in the future. They are research the possibility of using drones during mountain rescues and other firefighting efforts as well.