World's biggest drone firm to use Donegal as testing ground
Donegal is to become one of Europe's two test sites for the world's biggest drone company.
DJI, which makes the Phantom and Inspire ranges of drones, has teamed up with the European Emergency Number Association (Eena) and Donegal's Mountain Rescue Team.
A drone is a small quadcopter that can be controlled remotely by human pilots below. It typically has a high-resolution camera. The drones to be used in Donegal will also be kitted with thermal-imaging systems.
Donegal Mountain Rescue Team is currently using the software and will soon start using the drones in emergencies.
"The team in Ireland is already using advanced software applications to help search and rescue missions and the focus will be to improve real-time networking techniques and crowd-sourcing capabilities," said a spokesman for Eena.
"We expect to gain a deeper understanding of how aerial technology best adds value to emergency service providers in different scenarios, environments and conditions."
The use of drones in Ireland is rapidly increasing, with several thousand now in operation across the country.
The devices, which typically cost between €600 and €5,000, are being used commercially by farmers, photographers and real estate executives.
"We use a drone primarily for counting stock," said Mark Dunne of the Galway-based Murray Timber Group.
"Timber stock is very large and the sites tend to be very large. The easiest way to count it is to put the drone up.
"There's a significant cost saving involved."
DJI's director of education, Romeo Durscher, said that the technology could help rescue missions.
"This ultimately saves lives and property," said Mr Durscher.
"The technology is easy to deploy and can be used in dangerous situations without risking pilots' lives.
"Drones are transforming the way first response and civil protection missions operate."
The joint DJI-Eena program will provide "carefully selected" teams of pilots in Europe with the latest aerial-technology equipment, including DJI's Phantom and Inspire drones, its M100 platform and Zenmuse XT thermal-imaging system.