Donegal mountains to be testing ground for DJI rescue drones

8 Apr 2016

As part of a wider European effort to develop drones capable of instantly responding to a medical emergency, Donegal will become a testing ground for technology developed by drone giant DJI.

Like futuristic St Bernard dogs, rescue drones are quickly playing an important part in the role of search and rescue in dangerous terrains, such as mountains, where they can quickly get aid to those in distress.

And now it seems that the mountains of Donegal will be one of two testing grounds in Europe for the latest in rescue drone technology.

According to a joint statement from drone manufacturer DJI and the rescue research organisation, the European Emergency Number Association (EENA), the Donegal Mountain Rescue Team is being recruited to test the latest developments in drone technology in the most difficult of terrain.

“The team in Ireland is already using advanced software applications through DJI’s software development kits (SDKs) to coordinate search and rescue missions in remote areas,” the statement said, “and the focus will be to improve real-time networking techniques and crowd-sourcing capabilities.”

DJI remains one of the biggest drone manufacturers in the world with many of its Parrot and Phantom drones being operated around the world by hobbyists and enthusiasts, but many of its models have been recruited for rescue purposes, despite not being specifically designed for them.

Denmark to test firefighting drones

This joint DJI-EENA programme will now select and equip teams of pilots in Europe with “the latest aerial-technology equipment”, including DJI’s ready-to-fly Phantom and Inspire drones, its M100 platform and advanced Zenmuse XT thermal-imaging system.

Once the research programme is completed, the Donegal Mountain Rescue Team will report back on what they found during their experiences of flying rescue drones in the northern county’s terrain.

The other European team recruited to conduct research was named as the Greater Copenhagen Fire Department in Denmark whose focus will be on drone applications for firefighting, chemical accidents and larger car accidents in urban and over-water environments.

Speaking of the two teams’ involvement, EENA deputy executive director Tony O’Brien said: “With this programme, we seek to better understand how challenges in terms of logistics and data analysis and integration can be overcome to fully realise the benefits of drones in emergency and humanitarian crisis situations.”

Mount Errigal, Co Donegal image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic