PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — A Gulf Coast State College program is using advanced technology to help emergency responders.

This technology keeps them from putting first responders’ lives at risk.

What started as just an idea became a reality after Hurricane Michael.

Through the Gulf Coast Tempest program, the unmanned vehicles were designed after the storm to help first responders in disaster-stricken areas.


“It had kind of two functions, one, we could use unmanned vehicles to get to areas that are hard for first responders to get to and we could get live video footage and thermal data and things like that to make decisions about what they need to do next,” Gulf Coast State College Executive Director of Operations David Thomasee said.

The unmanned vehicle program utilizes devices to collect data and to help with recovery efforts during natural disasters and other emergencies.

“The other thing that it did was it gave us an opportunity to not only for the areas that are hard to get to but places that you would normally have to risk someone’s life to get to,” Thomasee said.

The program is designed for students to learn how to repair, operate, modify, collect and analyze data.

One of their unmanned vehicles is the Emergency Integrated Lifesaving Lanyard (E.M.I.L.Y.), an unmanned vehicle that helps with water rescue.

“It’s not intended to replace lifeguards and things like that but it’s much faster. So lifeguards could use these or operators on the beach could use these to get at least a floatation device to someone who is drowning and that buys them a little bit of time to get rescue personnel there and get them safely back in,” Thomasee said.

Their unmanned vehicles work hand in hand with their mobile command centers.

“They can get to some of these locations and record the data they need and we can pipe that data back to the Emergency Operations Center so the decision makers there have real-time data there in order to make decisions,” Thomasee said.

Their newest $1 million truck is equipped with 360 degrees of cameras to monitor the surrounding areas.

The command centers can also be used in non-disaster settings, like helping provide security during events with large crowds.

The Gulf Coast Tempest Program is funded through Triumph Gulf Coast.