The Orange Township Board of Trustees approved a resolution Monday to enter into a 90-day, $10,000 contract with Paladin Drones for use of its autonomous pilot drone response system that will give emergency responders a live overhead view of an emergency scene before they arrive. The agreement between the trustees and the tech startup firm puts the township at the forefront of cutting-edge technology in public safety.
“I think it’s an opportunity for Orange Township as a leader to serve and … to ultimately provide the results that we’re hoping for, so that one day, this will be a countywide program,” said Trustee Ryan Rivers, board chair.
According to a press release from Rivers, the pilot program supports the township’s commitment to first responders as a force multiplier in the daily jobs of fire, EMS and law enforcement personnel.
“Paladin Drones believes autonomous response drones will be the future for public safety services and is the leading company in this effort to the future,” states Rivers in a press release issued after the morning meeting. “Our safety services are very valued, and in moving forward with this program, we look to be leaders in embracing technology. This hopefully is the first step to a potential countywide emergency addition.”
Divy Shrivastava, chief executive officer of California-based Paladine Drones, approached Fire Chief Matt Noble two years ago about the township’s fire department participating in the autonomous drone pilot project. Shrivastava is an Olentangy Orange High School alumnus who attended the University of California Berkeley to study technology prior to founding Paladine Drones.
“I’m excited about the prospect,” Noble said. “I think it’s going to be a neat opportunity for Orange Township to be on the cutting edge. There are a lot of drones being used in public safety today but not to this extent.”
Trustee Lisa Knapp said she thinks the project is “very exciting and innovative,” and she is proud that Orange Township is involved in the cutting-edge technology.
“I’m super excited about the fact that it’s an Olentangy graduate — that makes it extra special,” she said. “I’m really hoping that the county will see value in it and take the information to help the county increase the safety of Delaware County residents overall.”
The project had been tabled during the trustees’ May 25 special meeting due to Trustee Lisa Knapp’s discovery of a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) in the contract that might have violated the Ohio Revised Code’s public records laws.
However, according to Noble, the NDA had been “reviewed and revised” by the Delaware County Prosecutor’s Office since the May 25 meeting.
In a prior interview, Noble said the drone would dispatch to an emergency ahead of first responders and send back real-time video and data to the responders as they are en route to the scene. According to him, a lot of public safety agencies are using drones today — law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services (EMS).
However, Noble said those drones are currently piloted by an individual who launches and flies it to the incident scene — the autonomous drone from Paladine Drones doesn’t have a remote pilot. He said the drone would be launched by Delaware County Emergency Communications 911 Center based on a list of incident types given to them by the fire department.
“They would have the capability of dispatching the drone,” he said. “It would take off, and it would go to the address of the incident ahead of responding units, do a 360 (degree view) of the area and provide that visual feedback to the responding units so we can see what we’re coming in on.”
Noble added it would provide the needed information “on the front end,” so they could make tactical decisions.
“Do we need everything that’s responding? Can we cancel some units? Do we need to add more units because what we’re seeing is bigger?” he said. “Then we can upgrade the assignment and get those additional companies responding sooner to be able to mitigate and deal with a fire.”
Noble said once the drone has done its job, a button is pushed to signal the drone to return to home, where it lands and begins to recharge for the next incident.
“The reason why we’re doing this trial project is to really collect data,” he said, adding the data can be used to show the possible benefits a drone could provide to the county and other agencies that operate within the county.
Noble said the $10,000 price tag is the cost of oversight and to obtain the necessary licensing to fly the drone for the 90-day pilot project.
According to Lee Bodnar, township administrator, the $10,000 will come from the fire department budget.