How a $30,000 drone kept firefighters safe during explosive welding company fire in Michigan

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  • Published: 04/15/2019 12:00 AM

PHOTOS: Above the thick, acrid smoke, booming explosions and flames, a drone safely whirred in the sky, transmitting video of the chaos to firefighters below. The Western Wayne County Hazardous Materials Response Team assisted Pittsfield Township firefighters after propane, butane and acetylene tanks caught fire at Ann Arbor Welding Company in Pittsfield Township about 12:30 p.m. Thursday, April 11. Among the tools at the agency’s disposal was a donated $30,000 DJI Matrice 210 drone -- officials call them unmanned aerial devices -- capable not only of taking high-definition pictures and video, but also providing thermal imaging, said team leader Michael Magda, who also works as a Livonia Fire Department captain. According to the drone’s temperature readings, one 2,000-pound propane tank that burned for nearly 24 hours reach nearly 600 degrees, Magda said. The information provided is “really helpful with situational awareness,” Magda said, “to determine if it’s viable to put people in harm’s way.”


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