The city of Corona, California, with a population of approximately 160k, is nestled in the northwestern region of Riverside County. With a diverse community and growing population, the Corona Fire Department is one of a few departments in the country to adopt UAS technology to help with their day-to-day operations and meet the needs of their community.
Until 2019, Michael Leckliter, a firefighter at Corona Fire, had pushed for a drone program with the department's leadership but found it challenging to make the case.
"I had been pushing for a drone program for a couple of years before starting the program, but prior leadership did not see the value," said Leckliter
Thankfully for Michael, and the department, the arrival of Chief Brian Young opened the doors to a whole new approach to emergency response. "Our current fire chief supports our pursuit of technology that can enhance our ability to perform our duties and increase efficiency and safety."
Pilot Josh Irvin (Fire Apparatus Engineer & Part 107 certified) flying the Matrice 300 RTK at Corona FD Headquarters.
After five years, Corona FD has developed a robust and successful UAS program that includes seven Part 107 certified pilots, five suppression pilots, and two prevention officer pilots. Though they started with a fleet of six DJI Mavic 2 Enterprises, they've recently acquired a Matrice 300 RTK from Advexure to bolster their response capabilities.
Wildland fire at Riverwalk Trail in Eastvale, CA. Photo courtesy of Michael Leckliter at Corona FD.
Leveraging the endurance and weather resistance of the larger M300 platform, Corona Fire has been able to effectively identify victims during swift water rescues, locate potentially hazardous chemical dumps, and help deliver messages to at-risk populations through a mounted loudspeaker, all while keeping their staff safe.
Corona Fire Department’s DJI Matrice 300 RTK at their headquarters in Corona, CA
Some of the most significant uses for the M300 have been on swift water incidents, wherein having a UAS on scene minimized the time rescuers had to be in the water. Without this, rescuers would've spent much longer searching through treacherous conditions. Additionally, the ability to deliver personal flotation devices (PFDs) to potential victims has also been a huge bonus.
Aerial drone shot of Santa Ana River near Corona, CA
If ever there was a case study on how drones can help a fire department scale its operations and serve their community, Corona would certainly qualify. Their UAS program has enabled them to better serve the community by increasing the speed and precision with which they can mitigate emergencies.
When asked about the future of Corona Fire's UAS program, Chief Young said, "We're evolving. We're doing things a lot things other agencies aren't doing. Though the concept of UAS is not new to the fire service, not everybody's adopted it…. [Our] seven aircraft fleet, we anticipate that continuing to grow."
For departments looking to build their own UAS program, Leckliter had this advice: "Don't reinvent the wheel. Reach out to nearby agencies that have a program and gather policies and procedures from each and find elements you can use to best suit your needs."
At Advexure, we're always thrilled to hear about how public safety is adopting cutting-edge UAS technologies to help keep their staff and communities safe. If you're interested in starting a drone program for your department or agency but are unsure of where to start, our team of subject matter experts, previous public safety servants, and licensed drone pilots are here to help.
Contact us today to learn more.