Town Neck Aerial

The east end of Town Neck Beach as seen from a drone.

Sandwich firefighters will be looking at different ways they can enhance their operations using drones in a series of exercises planned for this weekend.

On Saturday, August 10, the department will be working with the Sandwich Harbormaster’s Office and the Sandwich Department of Natural Resources, as well as Washington, DC-company Aerial Applications, to look at the different ways unmanned aerial vehicles can be used. The drills will be taking place at the harbormaster’s office at Oakcrest Cove.

Chief John J. Burke said that some of the applications include search and rescue, shark patrol, coastal erosion photography, traffic monitoring, and incident response.

He said that if someone were swept out to sea at the beach, for example, the drones are capable of assisting rescue personnel in quickly locating that person.

“The UAV with its high definition camera and GPS can ‘tag’ the person quickly,” he said.

The drones can also be used to fly along the Sandwich coastline and detect sharks using thermal imaging. Chief Burke said that if a shark is located, the drone can track the shark it until it leaves the area.

Using high definition cameras, the drones are capable of tracking the erosion along the coastline, as well. In particular, Chief Burke said the technology can be used after storms to assess any damage that may have occurred by first determining the coastline in its current state and marking it again following a storm to see how much of an impact the storm had.

During high-traffic times, such as the mass exodus of tourists on summer Saturdays and Sundays, drones will be able to provide real-time information about traffic situations.

Lastly, the devices will be able to provide emergency responders with information about situations such as wildfires, people lost in the woods, and building fires, Chief Burke said.

“The long-range plan is to apply for a grant and train UAV pilots from the fire department, the harbormaster, and the department of natural resources to be able to use the UAV when needed,” he said.

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