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article / March 23, 2021

From Air to Aid: Jacob Furst and the Role of Drone Technology in Disaster Response

Last updated: 3/23/2021

Jacob Furst is a drone guy. He has been flying drones recreationally since 2016 and works as the Customer Success and Operations Manager for Axon Air, and so it comes as no surprise that when the Axon Aid team began to take shape, Jacob signed on as the Chief Pilot and Head of Training.

Axon Aid is Axon’s charitable arm, and a large portion of the work Aid does centers around disaster response. “When I first joined Axon, I vividly remember seeing Isabella Giannini in the office one day taking inventory of the Axon Aid drone hardware” Furst recalls. “I approached her and asked what she was doing. She explained the concept of [Axon Aid]...a fully charitable emergency response team helping support local communities and agencies in times of need.”

Furst was immediately intrigued, and once he learned Axon Aid planned to use drone technology for disaster scene reconstruction and search and rescue, he decided to join the team. “At Axon we view drones as a force multiplier...the 3 main drone use cases we see today in law enforcement are Search & Rescue operations (SARs), Crash, Crime and Disaster Scene Reconstruction, and SWAT as a tactical tool to help keep officers safe in high risk situations.”

When many people think of drones, they just picture the hardware. The image that comes to their mind is a remote controlled toy. But the drone industry is growing rapidly, both in terms of hardware and software capabilities. “Livestreaming software allows for low latency and reliable way for decision makers to get the most accurate and real time information. Obstacle avoidance software improves the safety of the pilot and the local community by ensuring the drone doesn't collide with objects” Furst explains. 

Less obvious use cases for drones include using speaker attachments to help ensure social distancing, utilizing drone attachment modules to delivery medicine to rural areas, and even using the propeller rotor wash to create fresh air bubbles around hikers or citizens trapped in wild fires amid high smoke density. “The variety and use cases for drones are endless. I am continuously impressed with all the different ways agencies are using drones to help support their communities and continue to see the value they bring.”

Yet in the case of Axon Aid, Furst was quick to note that high-tech products aren’t the most impressive part of the operation. He finds the most powerful aspect of Axon Aid is the fact that it is 100% charitable. “The last thing agencies or communities need to be thinking about in the wake of a disaster is ‘how am I going to pay for [help]?!’...Seeing the faces of the community members and law enforcement when we show up to support them is the best feeling ever.”

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