Fire crews to use new drones for better view of blazes
Unmanned drones are to be used by Dublin firefighters to help battle blazes within weeks.
The Dublin Fire Brigade will be the first Irish emergency service to introduce the highly-sophisticated technology.
The drones can fly over the scene of a blaze, sending back live footage to a fire crew on the ground.
The remote-controlled machines, which are also known as quadcopters, will gather crucial data such as the source and direction of a fire.
Following the success of recent trials, Dublin Fire Brigade confirmed that the service is drawing up protocols with a view to bringing drones into operation within the next four weeks.
The decision was made to invest in the cutting-edge technology after its value was highlighted in other jurisdictions.
In the UK they have already been adopted by various fire services. Drones have also been successfully introduced by fire authorities in Boston in the United States.
Complete with infrared cameras, they have been adapted with night-vision capability.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, assistant chief fire officer Dennis Keeley said the technology will provide a "snapshot" of the scale of any particular fire.
"For large industrial or commercial fires, we'll be able to gather up-to-the-minute data, which will enable us to focus our efforts on the area that most needs attention," he said.
"We'll have two units in total, one used for training and the other will operate in the field helping us fight fires."
However, he stressed there is a limit to what drones can achieve, as the machines cannot fly directly into smoke.
According to the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) drones are "any aircraft and its associated elements, other than a balloon, kite or small aircraft, which is intended to be operated with no pilot on board".
Small drones (under 20kg) can generally be used non-commercially, if kept below 120 metres in altitude.
They must also remain within 500 metres of the operator, and keep at least 150 metres away from any other party, or any "structure or vehicle".
Drones also cannot be used in congested residential areas, or near airports unless special permission is granted.