Air Force, Fire Department Deploy sUAS in Aircraft Crash Scenario

In conjunction with a local fire department, the Edwards Air Force Base in California recently used a small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) during two aircraft crash exercises.

The scenarios allowed the Edwards Fire Department and the 812th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight to respond to a simulated crashed B-52 Stratofortress on Rogers Dry Lake.

During the crash simulations on July 31 and Aug. 3, members of the 812th Civil Engineer Squadron teamed with the Emerging Technologies Combined Test Force (ETCTF) to use the drone to increase their emergency response capabilities.

According to the Edwards Air Force Base, the exercise was unique for the responders because they were able to approach an actual dismantled B-52 on the lakebed. The fire department, which was first on scene, immediately used firefighting tactics to extinguish the simulated fire and rescue the aircraft crew members. The ETCTF then launched a sUAS that provided a live video feed to provide additional situational awareness for the incident commander. Additionally, it expedited the search for aircraft victims and explosive hazards, according to Lt. Col. Gregory Hammond, 812th CES commander.

When EOD members arrived on scene, they already knew the approximate location of the aircraft’s flares, and the drone enabled them to render the aircraft safe in a timely manner.

“The time-savings provided by the sUAS would have enabled faster sortie generation if the crash had occurred on the active airfield,” says Hammond. “Moreover, during the response, it supported a safer situational awareness.”

Overall, the exercise was a success, according to Hammond.

“At the operational level, the command element was able to try a new technology in order to improve their ability to respond safely to emergencies,” he says.

Matt Guggemos, assistant chief of the Edwards Fire Department, adds, “I believe sUAS will be the future of emergency response. It was a great experience to be at the forefront of this technology.”

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