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Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service wants drone pilot program made permanent

The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service wants to make drones a permanent feature of its fire-fighting equipment inventory.

The WFPS deployed its remotely piloted aerial system unit, or drone, at over 40 major incidents since a pilot program started in 2018, the service said in a report made public Monday.

The report to the city’s protection and community services committee says the drone “greatly enhanced the ability of the commanding officer to deploy appropriate resources in the right place and to keep crews and the public safe.”

According to the WFPS, drones can quickly locate a fire source using an on-board thermal imaging camera, assist in directing hoses and decrease the time it takes to locate victims in water rescue and search and rescue incidents.

The fire service believes its drone will be used more extensively as crews become more familiar with its capabilities. In the report, the service said it also wants to add a second drone to its complement “for back-up and training purposes.”

The cost of making the drones a permanent feature of the city’s fire-fighting gear varies year to year, averaging out at about $50,000 per year.

The machines have a life expectancy of about four years. The service estimates the cost would rise to just over $80,000 every second year to pay for new drones, and around $17,000 in the alternate years for maintenance and training.

The costs would be covered by the existing budget for the WFPS, the report says.

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