Starting today, the Antwerp police and fire departments are testing how to deploy drones to improve emergency services. Specifically, they have in mind two different scenarios: a police intervention including the pursuit of a suspect and an accident with data collection for the fire department. To that end, the Antwerp emergency services are employing "YACOB", a drone which can carry out flights completely automatically and analyse and transfer images during the flight. The drone station was developed by high-tech company DroneMatrix, supported by BDO Digital. "YACOB" by DroneMatrix in collaboration with BDO Digital.
To ensure smooth, successful emergency operations, you need a correct assessment of the situation thanks to good visuals and information flow. In that sense, an almost-immediately available aerial view is a crucial asset for emergency services, when approaching an incident, while managing it, and when analysing the scene of the event. That's why the Antwerp police and fire departments are testing automatic drones, reducing human interaction to a minimum. This should allow them to visualize and analyse information about the incident scene very efficiently and quickly. Thanks to YACOB, they can focus on their core tasks in this process.
"Setting up a drone network at strategic locations in the city can contribute to the optimization of incident approach and lets us gear our actions to external factors such as weather and traffic conditions and the flight restrictions which apply in the airspace over the city of Antwerp.”
Philip De Visscher, specialist at DroneMatrix
Drones save time in crisis situations
In crisis situations, time is a critical factor for emergency services. Drones ensure that the Antwerp police and fire department can intervene more quickly than ever before. As soon as a call comes in at the dispatching centre, the online drone receives information about the destination. Seconds later, the drone station opens and the YACOB drone itself calculates the fastest route to its destination. Within minutes, it provides emergency services with an assessment of the situation at the scene, based on the images it records.
With the videos and photos they receive from the YACOB drone, emergency services can get an idea of how serious the situation is even before they arrive on-site. Calculating the fastest route and transferring the images both go through the Proximus 4G+ network, which was specifically developed with drone applications in mind.
“YACOB is the first fully automatic and integrated docking station with this feature set. It's safe, ‘intelligent’ (smart), and reliable. It's remote-controlled using an online flight and fleet platform. Several applications are possible with regard to safety, inspection, analysis, and control. In addition, YACOB is easy to integrate into existing solutions like CityGIS (1), FOCUS (1), etc."
Philip De Visscher, DroneMatrix
The two test cases were set up in a fully project-based approach.
"Professional monitoring is crucial for these types of societally sensitive innovations. During this project, BDO Digital has assumed the role of Point of Contact. Together with DroneMatrix, BDO Digital attended the test flights in order to work out as many scenarios as possible. Based on this info we were able to quickly make changes where necessary."
Ingrid Evers, Business Unit Manager Smart Cities at BDO Digital
(1) CityGIS & FOCUS: two of the Antwerp emergency services' IT solutions, to which YACOB is connected.
- A drone in a box—the docking station—which can carry out flights completely automatically
- YACOB can be equipped with several payload systems, such as a high-res camera, infrared camera, 360° camera, multispectral camera, automatic number plate recognition, detection of persons, etc.
- Day, night, and thermal modes with real-time streaming to the Mission and Control Centre
- Possible expansion to multiple drone scenarios
- Automatic take-off, landing, flight, and charging
- Dynamic routes and following programmed geo-zones
- Remote control via online "Mission and Control Centre" (flight and camera)
- Scenario selection and dynamic rerouting
- Integration with police/fire department dispatching system is possible thanks to APIs
- Exchange of GPS data for automatic drone dispatching
- AI (artificial intelligence) for detection, tracking, object-of-interest selection, programmed hotspots, 3D mapping, automatic number plate recognition (ANPR), HAZMAT (the international standard for hazardous materials which is mandatorily installed on trucks)
- For some AI scenarios, a recognition library is added
- On-board and post-processing image analysis
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