One attendee at Commercial UAV Expo wasn’t looking to acquire drones but rather to give them away. Marc Langley heads a non-profit organization which goes by the inelegant acronym NPS-DDP — short for the “National Public Safety Drone Donation Program.”
The program itself, however, is anything but inelegant or clunky. In brief, it seeks to provide UAS for local first responders who can’t afford them. It sources drones from other public safety agencies that are upgrading their fleets, or by collecting cash or in-kind donations from sponsors or private donors and providing systems for agencies with limited budgets.
“If we get drones that are too old or not suitable for use in public safety, we donate them to STEM programs at schools around the country.” said Langley.
The organization’s website is replete with success stories from agencies that have benefited from its efforts. One such example comes from the Garden State: New Jersey, where firefighters in the hamlet of Sea Grit realized that drones would benefit their rapidly expanding need for fire safety inspections. In 2019, the agency entered into a partnership with another small community, Brielle, to pool their resources.
In explaining their need for a drone, an agency representative wrote, “In this short time, we went from performing about 100 fire-prevention inspections and investigations annually to over 400. Additionally, we have updated our agreement to include Code Enforcement inspections and services for both municipalities. So, in a matter of one year, the Sea Girt Code Enforcement and Fire Prevention offices went from 225 inspections to over 700 inspections annually.”
Having a small UAS available will dramatically speed up the inspection process. In addition, the town of 1,800 permanent residents swells to more than 20,000 during the busy summer months — and with tourists splashing around in the Atlantic or the nearby Manasquan River, a drone could do life-saving work by quickly locating and identifying swimmers in distress.
Recognizing that Sea Girt had a compelling need for a UAS, NPS-DDP was able to provide the agency with DJI Phantom 4, improving the safety of residents and visitors alike. So, if you are a public safety official who needs a drone to do your job better or more safely — or you have a drone you can donate to a worthy cause, NPS-DDP is probably an acronym you will want to remember.
TEXT BY PATRICK SHERMAN