Mich. FD drone crashes after a malfunction, lost near river

The operator received a “motor error” message on the controller and then the drone lost contact with the pilot


By John Tunison
The Grand Rapids Press, Mich.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Grand Rapids firefighters have had no success finding a drone that recently crash-landed near the Grand River because of an apparent malfunction.

The drone is worth about $2,000 and has a camera and thermal-imaging capabilities.

The drone is worth about $2,000 and has a camera and thermal-imaging capabilities. (Photo/Pixabay)
The drone is worth about $2,000 and has a camera and thermal-imaging capabilities. (Photo/Pixabay)

Grand Rapids Fire Assistant Chief Brad Brown said the drone -- one of four owned by the department -- was being operated on Friday, July 5 in a training exercise at the small Grand River island near Wealthy Street.

Brown said the operator received a “motor error” message on the controller and then the drone lost contact with the pilot.

Firefighters searched on the island and in the area for an extended period on Friday, then twice again in subsequent days. They used another drone to look for the lost unit, but without success.

Firefighters do not believe the drone went into the water because the last image on the camera was of foliage.

The lost drone is one of two smaller drones owned by the fire department. Brown said they’ve been used often for flight practice.

From one perspective, he said it’s fortunate the drone issue occurred during training and not during a fire or rescue emergency. Firefighters plan to follow up with the manufacturer to alert them to the error message and lost connectivity.

The idea would be to avoid another occurrence, he said.

Brown said he’s hopeful the drone maker will work with the fire department on replacing the unit.

Fire department leaders are looking at going with a less-expensive small-sized drone in the future -- without thermal imaging -- as an alternative to the current “practice” drones like the one that crashed.

Anyone who finds the missing drone can call the fire department at 456-3900 or bring it to the department’s headquarters at 38 LaGrave Avenue SE.

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©2019 The Grand Rapids Press, Mich.

 

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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