A specialized drone unit from Ontario Power Generation was one of the agencies taking part in the mock exercise on Thursday, December 1, 2022 in Port Hope.
The mock exercise was to test the municipalities emergency services response.
During the exercise, other agencies were involved including the OPG Drone Unit.
Today’s Northumberland was given a tour of the unit by Platoon Chief of OPG Fire Service at Darlington Jim Beatty.
Beatty also runs the drone program at OPG which has been in existence for three years.
The drone unit is a combined between Darlington and Pickering OPG Fire and Security said Beatty.
“The drone team can respond to anything at both nuclear plants as well as we have a mutual aid agreement with most of the fire and police departments in the GTA (greater Toronto area).”
At both Pickering and Darlington OPG sites, the drones can be used for security along with fire using them for a number of different areas including confined space.
The sophistication of the units has changed dramatically over the last few years along with the price.
“The equipment we have now, three or four years ago was $75,000 to $100,000 and now for $20,000 the fire department can be up and going.”
The unit OPG uses has a camera on it that is capable of 200x zoom, thermal imaging camera, it’s capable of tracking a vehicle or person autonomously and even a range finder.
As an example you could pick a boat out on Lake Ontario and it would tell you have far out it is.
The maximum height that a drone can fly is 400 feet and each time OPG does a flight they register the flight plan with Transport Canada.
OPG has made modifications to one of the drones making it capable of carrying a gas meter (or any other type of meter) into a hazardous materials spill and relaying back to the command post what emergency responses are dealing with.
Previously, firefighters wearing hazardous materials suits and breathing apparatus would have to walk into the danger zone to get readings.
“We can shut the props off and land it right in a spill. No harm, no risk mitigation to the firefighters in the field.”
The drones are also used for inspection and maintenance for anything internal and also dam and line inspections.
With the types of drones OPG uses, it has saved money and risk of injury to the men and women of Ontario Power Generation.
“It’s a game changer for sure.”