Americas Featured VTOL

Drone America and NIAS Integrate Professional Grade UAS into the largest Bi-State, Multi-Agency Fire Evacuation Drill to Date

Drone America Savant

On May 19th Drone America, supported by the Nevada Institute of Autonomous Systems (NIAS) participated in a Bi-State, Multi-Agency Fire Evacuation Drill that was conducted at the north end of Lake Tahoe on the Nevada and California Border. This Bi-State exercise involved more than seventeen separate first responder agencies and helped further Drone Americas mission to serve communities through the safe application of our state of the art unmanned technology, serving those who serve us.

The Bi-State Evacuation Drill is a collaboration between Drone America, North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District along with Washoe County Emergency Management, Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, Nevada Division of Forestry (NDF), Nevada Army National Guard, Nevada Highway Patrol, California Highway Patrol, North Tahoe Fire Protection District, Cal Fire, Placer County Emergency Management, Placer County Sheriff’s Department, Red Cross, IVGID, and other partnering agencies. This was the first time in our nation where commercial drones conducted simultaneous operations with manned emergency aircraft in the same airspace during a real-time scenario with the common mission of saving lives and property.

The Bi-State Fire Evacuation Drill affected Kings Beach, CA., Incline Village, NV and Crystal Bay neighbourhoods, affecting approximately 1,100 residents. Residents were asked to voluntarily evacuate to Tahoe Biltmore via a reverse dial 911 call.

Drone America’s VTOL Savant and flight team established a forward operating base (FOB) at Burnt Cedar Beach in Incline Village. At 12:15 p.m. Incident Command called for support, for a severely injured firefighter in need of plasma and medical supplies, beyond what the ground crew had on hand, to sustain victim until air extraction could arrive. Coordinates of the remote hilltop location were received and verified. The Drone America Flight team configured the required payload and a mission was launched.

Taking off at a ground altitude of 6,236 ft. and covering a flight distance of 4.5 miles Drone America’s VTOL Savant climbed 1,000 feet to 7,250 ft. MSL, 250 ft. AGL above the drop point.

Due to the tall tree cover and the lack of a safe landing zone the package was airdropped successfully by parachute to the waiting ground team. The mission took 6 minutes and 45 seconds to air drop the critical care supplies around steep terrain and other air traffic.

During the critical supply drop mission, Drone America was requested to provide real-time visual reconnaissance of the drop area and the affected ground team. Incident Command had concerns of the fire front advancing on the team during treatment of the victim.

While the VTOL Savant was returning to base the Drone America flight team readied the ISR (Information Surveillance and Reconnaissance) payload, and upon return of the VTOL Savant the Drop Payload carriage was replaced with the ISR payload and the aircraft readied for immediate return to the scene. The VTOL Savant was launched with only a 10-minute turnaround time. The VTOL Savant achieved the commanded ISR target altitude of 8,200 ft MSL, 1,200 ft AGL above target area and began transmitting live video immediately during its flight.

During the ISR flight to the location, the recovery Blackhawk helicopter was dispatched. The DA VTOL Savant arrived on scene first and transmitted geo-referenced live video of the affected firefighting team to multiple locations, including incident command and flight operations. Sharing the same airspace, the recovery Blackhawk helicopter arrived 10 minutes after the VTOL Savant arrived on station and operated between 700 ft and 1050 ft below the VTOL Savant.

The simulated injured firefighter was airlifted to safety and survived with additional treatment.

The team on the ground was advised of the advancing fire in real time and incident command maintained real-time situational awareness of the developments on the ground. The DA VTOL Savant returned to base successfully. Total mission time for both primary and secondary missions was 1 hour 16 minutes. Total distance covered: 23.4 miles including time to, from and over target areas.

“Working side by side with emergency services while integrating our unmanned systems into a real-world exercise give us further insight into operational safety and effectiveness. Delivering value in the form of data, video or critical supplies is our utmost priority allowing us to better protect the lives of those that serve us,” said Mike Richards President and CEO of Drone America.

“This joint operation integrating drones into all aspects is a perfect public safety use case to enhance safety for the public, first responders, and public safety and emergency management officials—the largest in Nevada to date involving drones. Nevada companies like Drone America and NIAS are setting the standards for full integration of drones into wildland firefighting, medical air delivery of critical supplies, and wildland fire surveillance while ensuring drones are safely integrated into the National Airspace System,” said Chris Walach, Senior Director of all FAA- designated Nevada UAS Test Sites and NIAS.

“North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District is in the process of becoming a response partner with Drone America due to their capabilities and their intelligence gathering. The Bi-State Evacuation Drill was a clear demonstration of how we can all work together, potentially saving lives and saving taxpayers dollars. It is a pleasure working with Drone America and we look forward to future endeavours, together.” said Ryan Sommers, Fire Chief of North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District.

“North Tahoe Fire Protection District’s Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) strives to accomplish an innovative approach to using drones during emergency incident responses. Drone America illustrated the capabilities of drone incident response at the Bi-State Evacuation Drill; confirming the mission of the District’s UAS program. We look forward to ongoing growth in technology and seeing increased public safety benefits from incident responses utilizing (UAS) drones.”
– Michael Schwartz, Fire Chief, North Tahoe Fire Protection District.

About the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS):

The Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS) and FAA-designated Nevada Unmanned Aviation Test Site leads the growth of the Nevada Unmanned Aviation Systems (UAS) Industry through business teaming relationships, collaborating with primary research institutions on UAS research and development, and enhancing the Nevada UAS Industry knowledge base to attract new and permanent business and create jobs in the State of Nevada. Learn more at

About Drone America:

Drone America strives to be one of the World’s Top Providers of Autonomous Unmanned Vehicles, high tech equipment and services. Our mission is to use UAS technologies as a means to survey, protect, and preserve human life and strategic resources around the Globe. For more information about Drone America please

Similar Posts