Vista-based Datron World Communications said one of its drone aircraft was able to help government officials respond to a recent train derailment that involved the release of toxic materials.

The Louisville, Ky. derailment caused concerns because it involved tank cars carrying hydrogen fluoride and butadiene. The latter is a chemical commonly found in the rubber used to make tires.

Datron makes the Scout, a four propeller helicopter that weighs 3 pounds. The helicopter was able to hover over the scene and collect still pictures and video, which gave officials an aerial perspective of the disaster and helped them make decisions.

The technology cost far less than dispatching a manned helicopter to the scene.

“This is exactly the type of public safety scenario the Datron Scout was designed for,” said Chris Barter, Datron’s Scout program manager, in a prepared statement. “When the situation requires an in-depth aerial view of the circumstances and quick response without risk to the team on the ground, the Scout provides the ideal solution.”

— SDBJ Staff Report