• Getting a Handle on Hazardous Situations

    An innovation launched in Sarasota expands fire fighters’ arsenal.

An innovation launched in Sarasota expands fire fighters’ arsenal

Sarasota, FL, November 14, 2017 — First Responders In Flight In hazardous situations every moment is critical. So, Rich Gatanis, a Southern Manatee Fire Rescue firefighter with nearly 15 years of experience and drone pilot, uses unmanned flight to give first responders an advantage. Gatanis, who is also the UAS Operations Manager of FLYMOTION Unmanned Systems in Tampa, Florida, trains firefighters to fly drones in extreme situations and regularly meets with other public safety agencies to share his expertise and develop best practices for confronting both man-made and natural disasters. Now, in conjunction with ROBRADY design, Rich and Southern Manatee are helping take firefighting to a whole new level.

Grasping The Challenge

Understanding the potential of unmanned vehicles in hazardous environments, Gatanis imagined using drones to fly gas and radiation sensors farther into extreme conditions than most would attempt. With full support of his chief and the resources of Southern Manatee Fire Rescue, Gatanis conducted extensive tests and consulted the appropriate regulatory agencies to prove the feasibility of his ideas. What he envisioned was a special attachment, a meter bracket, to allow drones to carry various sensor equipment that could safely provide extensive, real-time data in volatile situations.

Every Ounce Counts

Gas and radiation meters provide vital information about the composition of a chemical spill, radiation levels, or weather patterns. They could even advance research into plume formations. However, while this equipment may be delicate, it must still meet a drone’s payload tolerances: a single ounce could mean the difference between flight and failure. Gatanis approached ROBRADY design to partner in the development of his concept. The internationally recognized firm, with a track record for bringing research to reality, was inspired by the concept’s tremendous potential and joined Gatanis and Southern Manatee Fire Rescue to insure the idea got off the ground.

“The meter bracket is about as clear an example as there is of what ROBRADY does: apply design thinking to humanize technology.” CEO and Design Director Rob Brady

After gaining a thorough understanding of the requirements, the ROBRADY team created a 3D printed prototype that secured to a ruggedized drone. Yet, while rigorous testing—including use during Hurricane Irma—showed promise, the design was slightly heavy for the intended missions.

With the next iteration, ROBRADY took a serious engineering pass, conducting strength analyses, analyzed optional materials, and successfully stripping away two-thirds of the bracket’s weight. As of this posting, the current version has been 3D printed, delivered and will undergo a new battery of tests to simulate the demanding conditions of real-world disasters. When fully realized, the bracket will be rugged enough to carry sensitive detection equipment into danger zones, but light enough to allow drones to operate properly, even when carrying the extra weight of a lighting rig for nighttime use.

No Second Guessing When Seconds Matter

Since the data, whether from an overturned tanker truck or blazing wildfire, is gathered by unmanned drones, it keeps first responders out of harm’s way whenever possible. And, for those times when first responders must enter the belly of the beast, this unprecedented level of situational intel lets them know what they’re getting into before they get into it. The time saved by knowing exact crisis conditions and the equipment needed is invaluable for safely improving response times. The benefit of the meter bracket is difficult to overstate. This life saving innovation, developed locally in Sarasota, has wide-ranging implications for emergency operations on a national, even global, stage.