Drones could be used by Austin firefighters

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin City Council approved a plan that would allow the city’s fire department to purchase drones that would be used during emergency situations.

“They go up really high and you can see anything,” said rookie pilot Connor Bracken, who got hooked after watching his uncle fly a Phantom. “Except people can get pissed off when I get right behind them.”

Whether you are an amateur enthusiast with a $1,000 Phantom, or a commercial pilot with a $35,000 rig, drones are the rage.

Robert Youens formed his company, Camera Wings Aerial Photography, three years ago at the urging of local film director Tim McCanlies. He has flown for movies, realtors, universities, engineers, oil companies and others. He flies with safety in mind, clear of commercial air zones and completes the proper insurance coverage.

“It’s lucrative now but it took a lot of building relationships with companies and making them feel comfortable dealing with me,” Youens said.

As for battling raging floods and roaring fires, or even infrared work in darkened skies, Youens says providing firefighters with drones is a no-brainer.

“They are such a useable tool,” he said. “Why not do reconnaissance with a small drone aircraft that doesn’t cost a lot of money, and saves lives and saves injuries? I’m all for it, it just makes sense.”

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