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Citymesh and the city of Genk launch a test project with a Safety Drone


The city of Genk is launching a test project with a Safety Drone that can make images during the first few minutes of a life-threatening situation. The imaging technology, software and accessories on board the drone will enable the emergency services to gather information more quickly and efficiently in the event of an incident. The project is set to start on Wednesday, 3 August. The drone is stationed on the roof of the Carma police zone in Genk, and during the first phase, it will be used by the East Limburg Fire Brigade Zone. The CARMA police may participate in the second phase.

Citymesh and the City of Genk are cooperating closely on this project. To enable drone communication during emergencies, a mobile private network will be set up, covering the city's borders. The Safety Drone project was made possible by S-Lim, which unites Limburg municipalities to help Limburg develop into a smart region. S-Lim is funding this project so that the experience and knowledge gained can be shared with other cities and towns in the province in the future.

The City of Genk uses smart technology to pioneer security

To optimise drone communication, a mobile private network is essential. This network makes it possible to send images to the dispatch and fire brigade and/or emergency services without delay, at the high speed of the drone. Therefore, when emergency services arrive on the scene of an incident, they will already have information about the scope and severity of the situation, which will enable them to make swifter decisions based on realistic, accurate data.

"The dynamic nature of a city like Genk means that we want to keep innovating. As a smart city, we use technology to improve the help we can give our residents and to ensure that our police and emergency services can work with optimal efficiency. In this way, we are working together to make Genk safer," says Mayor Wim Dries.

"We are very enthusiastic about implementing this project together with the city of Genk and the regional emergency services. This project is a unique combination of technologies that will shape the future of our society. By combining drones, AI and private networks, we can give emergency services unique insights without the need for additional staff. This is an important first step that is sure to have a follow-up", says Mitch De Geest, CEO of Citymesh.

Real-time support of emergency services

The Safety Drone will be used when calls are made to the emergency number 112. Deploying the drone for specific emergency situations makes it possible to assess risks more accurately, while guaranteeing the safety of both citizens and emergency services at all times. The drone, which will fly automatically to the site of the emergency while being controlled from the Citymesh Command & Control Centre in Oostkamp, can take images in real time and transmit them to the police, fire brigade and/or other emergency services.

These detailed heat and live HD images will be transmitted via the city's private network. For example, images of a fire, a rescue in water or someone being extricated from a vehicle will never have to pass through the public network, and therefore can only be viewed by the relevant actors.

"Using a drone in emergencies allows us to assess the situation before we arrive on the scene. This saves us crucial minutes that could potentially save lives, and gives us more insight into how best to approach the incident and conduct our intervention," explains Dominic Knapen, Zone Commander of the East Limburg Fire Brigade.

Operation and safety of the Safety Drone

During the first phase of this project, the drone will initially be used during the day, but in a later phase of the project, it will be in use 24/7. The Safety Drone flies at a height of 90 metres and monitors a radius of 5 km. This radius can be gradually expanded in the future. To guarantee maximum reliability, a licensed Citymesh drone pilot will be able to take control of the drone at any time. This can also be done remotely, from the Citymesh Drone Command & Control Center in Oostkamp.

Other safety aspects have also been addressed. For example, it will still be possible to control the drone if one of the engines fails, and in the unlikely event that the entire system fails, a parachute will open automatically. If there are any problems with the connection or the battery is low, the drone will return to the docking station. The drone will also check weather conditions, the status of the airspace and any prohibited, non-accessible areas before it takes off.

The images taken by the drone will only be shared with relevant parties, such as the fire brigade and emergency services, via a secure streaming platform developed by Citymesh. In conformity with the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) these images will be destroyed after a limited period.

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