Marco fire-rescue uses drones to monitor safety in the water

When we think of drones, we usually think of taking cool videos. But the Marco Island Fire-Rescue team recently used it in a way we wouldn’t think — to quickly check the well being of people in the water.

A family new to paddle boarding said it’s good to know someone has their backs.

“You might lose your balance,” Neveah Valdizan said. “And that could be really scary if you don’t know how to swim.”

On Thursday, Marco Island Fire-Rescue responded to a call about some paddle boarders who needed help a mile off shore.

“To know if I can’t get to my kids or something, that someone else who’s a professional and who has access to things like that they can help out and find us,” Rita Christensen said.

The drone quickly found the paddle boarder, who ended up being OK.

“Anything that can help with the process of finding people quicker is definitely an advantage to us,” Division Chief Jeff Kutzke said. It’s definitely a tool in the toolbox … It’s definitely an enhancement to our service

Because the drone saw paddle boarders get back to shore safely, crews canceled two rescue boats that would have been deployed, which saves time and resources. This allows the department to respond to other emergencies as well.

Marco fire-rescue has used drones for its operations for a year now. Before they got the drone, they would call on the county’s helicopter if they needed to deploy a search and rescue.

“But it’s nice to know that if anything happened that the fire department does have those drones available,” Christensen said. “And that they can send them out.”

Reporter:Hannah Vogel