National

Japan to train firefighters to operate drones with an eye toward disaster response

JIJI

The Fire and Disaster Management Agency will train firefighters to operate drones in an attempt to promote the use of them in disaster response efforts.

The agency will offer firefighters from across the country a training course from the second half of fiscal 2019, awarding those who have completed the course the role of “drone operation adviser.”

It plans to train a total of 135 personnel by fiscal 2023 and dispatch them as instructors to fire departments that have yet to introduce drone technology.

Drones are expected to play a key role in reaching places that can’t be accessed by firefighters and helicopters in a disaster. For example, a drone fitted with a thermographic camera can identify sources of a blaze and give a clearer picture of the damage in large-scale fires. Following landslides, drones can be used to search for missing people.

The agency has implemented funding measures to aid fire departments that are introducing advanced drone technology, as well as lent equipment to fire academies across the country and written manuals for using the technology.

However, only 116 out of 728 fire departments have adopted the use of drones, of which only 72 have actually put them into use, according to a survey taken in June last year.

The agency hopes that the training program will push for wider use of drones in fire departments nationwide. The program will target firefighters in leadership positions, with tech professionals offering lessons on flying skills, and laws and regulations regarding drones.

The agency hopes to conduct the first training session as soon as early next year with an aim of certifying 15 drone operation advisers. From fiscal 2020, it plans to admit 30 personnel to the program annually.

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