Drones to inform those affected about the status of properties in extreme situations such as fires or rashes. This is the measure proposed by Alfonso Escalero, director of the audiovisual production company. I Love The Worldto introduce it into the care protocols for evacuees. This technology was already used for this purpose by Escalero himself, in a particular way and without it being contemplated in the emergency operation, during the eruption of the Tajogaite volcano in La Palma, whose start turns two years old tomorrow. The versatility of these aerial devices and their panoramic images and videos provide very precise details about the situation of public and private properties damaged or threatened by natural disasters.
After the deployment carried out in the recent fire of the Forest Crown of Tenerife by Airmedia 360, a company born in La Orotava and specialized in using, renting or manufacturing professional drones, and I Love The World itself, the operatives are considering including these drones in future emergencies, not only to provide information about the disaster situation – for what they are already used–, but also to provide service for the first time to the victims–which would be a novelty–.
Support for this Escalero proposal has not been long in coming. Rosa Dávila, president of the Cabildo of Tenerife, and Federico Grillo from Tenerife, emergency technical director of the Cabildo de Gran Canaria and fire expert, confirmed on their social networks that they are working on it. “We will continue to advance and incorporate new means to reach the population with transparent information,” explained the island president, while Grillo assured that “we must be even more sensitive to the citizens evacuated in emergencies to achieve increasingly modern communication management.
The meeting with Grillo
Alfonso Escalero remembers that the first contact he had with Grillo was because he asked for permission to use a 360-degree photo, which he had taken in the last fire in Tenerife, for educational purposes for his students at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Later, and as Federico Grillo confirmed on his social networks, he and Escalero had a talk in which it was proposed to include drones in the assistance protocols for those affected.
The main options used are to incorporate them to help in cases where helicopters cannot act, either at night or in other situations of low visibility. Sharing photos and videos is also contemplated to inform the affected population and avoid the stress of uncertainty, which worsens an already maximum anxiety about having to leave their homes. «I ask to protocolize the use of drones for disasters such as a fire or an eruption and that professionals be hired. I don’t want to be in this, I’m just giving the idea,” Escalero makes clear.
The person responsible for I Love The World discovered this idea by chance during the La Palma eruption, when he went to Isla Bonita to cover the catastrophe. He observed that the way the lava could flow was imprecise: «I went to see how the area affected by the volcano was and I raised a drone. Within days of publishing the images on the networks, hundreds of palm trees began to contact me to show them the situation of the areas where their properties were located. The demand increased instantly. Upon detecting that the information offered by the official operation was not accurate, he set out to help these people, even if it meant an enormous effort. «People who are at risk of losing their possessions need to have accurate information. There is a lot at stake. “So I got to work,” reveals Escalero.
«They all told me that they could not live with the uncertainty of not knowing how their homes, their farms, their relatives’ land were, everything they had fought so hard for. They need data, even if, as happened in La Palma, in many cases it was negative,” says Escalero. “History repeated itself in the Corona Forestal fire,” he points out. Messages from those affected asking for images of their properties accumulated on Alfonso Escalero’s mobile phone.
The orders multiplied but so did the inconveniences. This service is not contemplated in the manuals and the technicians had objections, such as that the drones could affect the helicopters. “In a fire with a 90-kilometer perimeter, we could coordinate perfectly so as not to affect the aircraft and calm the anxiety of the evacuees.” The result was that they did not allow drones to fly over inhabited areas.
The I Love The World drones had been the eyes of hundreds of palm trees affected by the volcano. But in reality Alfonso Escalero was not the first to deploy this humanitarian service. The first person to start it was a farmer from Tazacorte named Antonio Carrillo. This man used a small drone that was given to him on his birthday to control his farms. When the volcano erupted, a neighbor asked him to blow it up to see how his house was doing. That’s where it all started. They removed the device because they lacked permission, which caused a rebellion in support of the neighbors. He was finally able to recover the drone after paying a fine of 90 euros.
The advancement of technology allows it to be used in areas such as prevention and security. According to Alfonso Escalero, in Gran Canaria they already have a drone prototype that includes a powerful water tank, devices that are much cheaper than any helicopter. At the moment, they do not put out fires but they can help make firefighting operations more effective. And, above all, to keep those affected informed about how their properties are. The experience of La Palma can be very useful. Administrations such as councils Tenerife and Gran Canaria are already studying it.