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New air unit will support firefighters at incidents

GREATER Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) has launched a new flying AIR Unit to support the work of firefighters at operational incidents.

The unit can provide an unrivalled view of an incident ground to support firefighters and officers in managing a range of situations safely and effectively.


It went live on Saturday, July 11, 2015, and just days later was requested to support Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service following a fire and explosion at a mill in Bosley. You can see the footage here

The AIR Unit – which stands for Aerial Imagery Reconnaissance – will be available 24/7 and its launch follows a successful three-month trial held in 2014.

During incidents it will be able to retrieve high-definition (HD) and infra-red (IR) real-time images and footage to help those in charge make decisions quickly.

It is controlled using a bespoke computer tablet, utilising a simple point and click map based navigation system designed to military specifications.

In addition to emergencies, the unit can also be used in situations such as training exercises to take footage and images that can be used to further improve firefighting.

The launch of the unit follows years of research carried out as part of GMFRS’ future firefighting project, which looks at new ways of firefighting and improving safety for crew.


A team of pilots has been trained to operate the unit, which also includes a vehicle that will respond to incidents on blue lights.

The unit can be used for a variety of scenarios where those in charge feel it will help – this could include, for example, fires; collapsed buildings; large-scale flooding incidents; moorland fires and transport crashes. 

Chairman of Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Authority, Councillor David Acton, said: “One of the key benefits of this new unit is that it improves firefighter and officer safety – and that is a really important factor for us.

“The future fighting project has, for several years, been looking at how new equipment and techniques can improve firefighter and public safety and help deal with incidents more effectively and efficiently. This has already seen the Service implement a wall-piercing high pressure lance to fight fires and new multi-layered fire kit. 

“Not only will the AIR Unit footage provide an excellent debrief tool – it means GMFRS has the potential to create a database of footage and images that would be an excellent training resource for developing firefighters. 

“There is also the potential in the future for the unit to assist our work with partner agencies, especially the police and search and rescue teams.”

• The unit model is an Aeryon SkyRanger – it is a lightweight quad-copter which, due to its compact stowage in a single case, can be transported and deployed in a very short time frame. • Flight duration is wholly dependent on battery life, but should be at least 35 minutes. • The maximum operational height the unit can fly at is 130m, whilst the maximum horizontal range is 750m from the pilot.
Last update: 23/03/2016 08:19:26
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