Weston Volunteer Fire Department gets a drone

The Weston Volunteer Fire Department's new drone gets aerial views of Weston. — Gregory Menti photo

The Weston Volunteer Fire Department’s new drone gets aerial views of Weston. — Gregory Menti photo


The Weston Volunteer Fire Department recently added a new tool to its arsenal — an aerial drone.

The fire department has had the drone for two months and is training members on the proper handling and use of the device.

The drone cost around $2,000 and was paid for by funds donated to the fire department.

“It’s our eyes in the sky,” said Weston Fire Chief John Pokorny.

Pokorny envisions using the drone to look for lost hikers in some of Weston’s popular hiking locations.

He said the drone’s aerial view can make finding people considerably easier than exploring the woods by quad vehicle or foot.

The drone was used once in town by WVFD so far. The smell of smoke was reported in an area near Lords Highway and the department used the drone to fly overhead and look for any signs of a fire. While nothing was wrong, the department appreciated having the overhead view to ensure that everything was safe.

In addition, the department brought the drone to a call in Fairfield where a swimmer was reported missing. The call was a false alarm, but having the ability to check the water overhead elevated the peace of mind of the responders.

“We’re using this as a tool and not a toy,” said Jason Greenfield, a member of the fire department who is also a Weston police officer. “It’s an invaluable tool to have.”


Pokorny said the department is very concerned with the privacy of citizens in Weston and the public’s privacy will not be jeopardized because of the drone.

Many drones take high-definition pictures and send them back to the user controlling the drone. The WVFD drone streams high-definition video back to the user. The iPad used to control it can receive video from up to a mile away.

The drone is operated with a controller that looks like it could have been attached to a video game. The controller connects to an iPad and the drone is moved with levers on the controller.

The iPad screen shows real-time video stream as well as the altitude of the drone, the speed of the drone, and the number of GPS satellites the drone is connecting to at the time.

The drone knows where it is because of the GPS satellites. If the drone is hovering and someone attempts to push it out of the way, the connection with the GPS signal is so strong that the drone fights to stay still in its location.

If the operator loses connection with the drone, it automatically flies 100 feet in the air to avoid any trees and returns to where it is being operated.

The battery life of the drone is approximately 25 minutes, but the fire department keeps four batteries charged at all times for optimal efficiency.

“This will change the way fire service operates,” said Greenfield. “We can get it set up and have it in the air in less than five minutes.”

Greenfield is working on developing an in-house training program to make sure Weston’s firefighters know all of the protocols of drone operation in addition to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations. He hopes to perfect the training program and teach it to other fire departments who purchase a drone.

Greenfield also believes the drone can offer a new perspective on other aspects of fire training for the town. He likens the ability to view video captured by the drone to a football team watching the previous week’s game on film during practice.

The department can see what people did wrong or right during training exercises because of a new angle provided by the drone.

Drone technology is advancing rapidly and even though the department just got the device, Greenfield is already imagining what will come next. He’s looking forward to using a drone with infrared camera technology so the department can take even more accurate pictures when fighting fires.

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