All over the world, drones are taking to the skies at the hands of search and rescue (SAR) teams, acting as eyes in the sky for important recovery operations. Drones can be used to reach remote areas, which is why search and rescue teams are utilising this technology in order to aid their rescue efforts.
We’ve spoken to some expert SAR operators, from the UK and Ireland to the US, who are eager to give their thoughts on search and rescue drones, their benefits and what the future holds for these UAVs.
Supporting search and rescue operations with UAVs
One of the biggest uses for drones in search and rescue is to reach risky areas like steep hillsides, river banks and lakes.
Assisting the search for missing people in the UK
Andrew Barr, Head of RPAS at Surrey Search and Rescue, says “we help the police find missing vulnerable people, typically those with dementia or people who are despondent. Drones can cover ground quicker than ground and dog teams”. This allows search and rescue teams (like Surrey SAR) to search vast spaces quickly and efficiently, aiding the safe return of many missing people.
Drones are also widely used by fire services all over the world. In the UK, drones have been known to assist operations surrounding major fires and wildfires. The drones are able to assess such situations safely, before sending in people and potentially endangering more lives.
The Surrey Search and Rescue team have even developed their own streaming solution to aid rescue efforts. This is so that the police and fire departments “can see what resources are required and how the incident is progressing. The incident commander on the scene gets a tablet to view the drone footage live for situational awareness and decision making”, says Andrew.
Firefighters in the US are also benefiting from drone technology
Gordon, a firefighter in the state of Indiana, explained how drones “can take very high-quality photos and bring them back for closer inspection by ground teams. Some drones are even equipped with thermal imaging cameras to detect heat, which can assist in helping locate a missing person”. This is something that helicopters are known to assist with, but drones are able to get closer to the scene, much more safely.
Gordon’s team specifically has used UAV drone technology to search for missing children and adults, criminals on the run and even to assess flood damage after a storm in the state. Drones are proving essential in helping search and rescue teams find victims faster and more safely.
In Ireland, drones are assisting all aspects of emergency services
From the Irish Coastguard to the National Ambulance Service, drones in Ireland are greatly assisting search and rescue operations to prevent mass casualty scenarios.
Mark Francis, a member of the Drone SAR team within the Irish Civil Defence, says the main benefit of drone technology for them is the reduced risk to personnel. “In some cases, more ground can be covered (using a drone) than a conventional land search team, and often the two work together giving greater coverage and improving safety”.
What does the future hold?
With a strong influence in search and rescue operations today, experts believe drones could become more influential in the future as the UAV technology continues to improve. “I think drones will be used more, along with developments in sensors such as thermal imaging and an ability to fly in the rain”, says Andrew.
Firefighter Gordon also hopes to see drones become equipped with more gear in the future, including scene lighting and two-way radio communications, to allow his team to communicate with hard to reach victims.
What do you think the future holds for search and rescue drones? Let us know in the comments below!
Taking care of your drone
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