Madeira Beach Fire Department first to implement drone program for search and rescue

MADEIRA BEACH, Fla. - The Madeira Beach Fire Department is the first in the state of Florida to begin implementing a completely new drone program to its search and rescue operations. 

Fire Chief Derryl O'Neal said the department received two drones through a private donation totaling around $5,000. 

O'Neal has been able to use their drone in three water search and rescues along the Intracoastal Waterway in Pinellas County. 

The chief was able to determine there was no missing kayaker through the aerial shots on their drone feed. 

They also recently determined a suspicious package in the water was a buoy. 

A drone that launches within seconds can save the department valuable time during a search effort.

"We're able to get this drone out there and identify the situation without having to put our firefighters in marine vessels or actually swimming out on surfboards to evaluate the situation that may not be an emergency," said O'Neal.

O'Neal added that there is additional equipment that can help with thermal imaging or hazardous material monitoring. 

Other departments across the state are reaching out to the chief for ways to start up a drone program as well. 

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