Drone chopper helps Clovis firefighters

FRESNO, California

Clovis firefighters discovered that video taken from a homemade remote control helicopter can help them in fire investigations.

The fire that destroyed an apartment building in Clovis this week gave Chris Geiger a chance to show what his remote control four bladed copter could do.

Once the flames subsided, firefighters asked him to buzz the burned out building to assess the damage and the safety of the structure.

"I was very surprised to learn the fire department would be interested in using this to survey the damage after a fire and determine the level of safety a business might have." Chris told Action News.

Firefighter Chad Fitzgerald says the video was valuable. "It gives us a unique opportunity as a department to look at the incident in several ways."

Fitzgereld said getting this kind of view would have required using aerial ladders, taking up time and resources. Geiger put this copter together from parts ordered on the internet. He attached a "Go Pro" camera and a special gyroscopic mount. It cost him about $3,500.00.

"Many of the parts are commercially available and many people are building drones like this and remote control helicopters like this," said Geiger.

He frequently takes the copter out to the park, just for fun. It feeds back video instantly. It has a range of about half a mile and can stay in the air for up to 30 minutes.

He's a wedding photographer and used a similar chopper to help a with a wedding proposal delivering the engagement ring by air.

"Yes we put the wedding ring right on the copter put a camera above and below and flew it in a and delivered the ring right there in Alamo Park in San Francisco. That was a very unique opportunity and probably a very expensive ring."

Chris sees lots of opportunities for this technology.

He added, "Many of the things that are done with full size helicopters can be done with smaller ones without the need to put a person in the air."

Chris provided his flying service to the fire department for free, but they hope to compensate him for his work and use him in the future.

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