This is a day and age where we should be expecting virtually the impossible to be perpetrated by drones. We are already familiar with the home deliveries that are being carried out by Amazon drones as well as the top quality aerial videos that are captured by drones in far flung areas. The search and rescue community stationed in B.C. has been gathering plaudits from all over the world for a successful search and rescue mission carried out by a heat seeking drone. The drone was able to locate missing persons in the area.
After reports emerged that seven snowboarders and skiers were found to be missing after they went out of bounds at Sun Peaks, a drone was launched by Kamloop Search and Rescue. Sun Peaks is a resort mountain in B.C.’s interior near Kamloops.
A snowboarder, named Victor, admitted that he along with his friend had decided to blindly follow a group of five other adventurers to enjoy fresh snow beyond the resort’s safety confines. While talking to CTV News, he said, “We were of the view that nothing would go awry which, in fact, turned out to be wrong.” The seven adventurers were stuck in deep snow for nine hours straight. Fortunately enough, the Kamloops SAR is a segment of the Pilot Program with Emergency Management B.C. The basic purpose of this program is conduct tests and experiments to determine if a heat seeking machine can detect and find human beings.
The Kamloops SAR Manager, Alan Hobler, said that the conditions for launching the heat seeking drone couldn’t get better than this. He told that already had decent inkling of where the adventurers could have headed to. The 18 searchers narrowed the drone survey area down since they had an idea about the area where adventure-seekers could have gone to. The temperatures were frigid but the lost persons kept on moving in order to keep their body temperatures high. The Infra-red FLIR camera mounted on the remote controlled machine was able to detect their heat signatures expertly with seamless ease. However, the SAR manager believes that the drone is still not sophisticated enough and would certainly have not be able to detect the lost persons had it been the summer time.
The usage of drones has been regulated by a number of rules and limitations. The pilot is mandated to keep a line of sight with the unmanned aerial vehicle and they are not allowed to be flown near sensitive zones such as airports and in the vicinity of aircrafts. This leaves the rescuers to choose between a helicopter or a drone. Helicopters have their own advantages. Several search and rescue personnel can be onboard the helicopter while in case of finding injured persons, they always be carried to a safe location via the helicopter. Mike Danks of North Shore Rescue believes that the heat seeking drone can be regarded as yet another tool that has been added to the toolbox of search and rescuers. He is of the view that every tool has its own time and place to be used where it would prove to be the most effective. In this case, the heat seeking drone did its part tremendously well and so it was a win-win situation.
Mike Dank told the news agency that North Shore Rescue was looking towards using drones is innovative ways in search and rescue operations in North Vancouver. However, he was of the view that drones might end up having limited usage options at the South Coast. He elaborated his point further that an area with a thick and dense covering of trees makes it extremely difficult even for the heat seeking cameras to permeate the dense forest. He also said that YVR and smaller regional airports had already restricted the amount of airspace for drones including the float plane approach at Vancouver Harbor.
Having said that, Coquitlam search and rescue is really eager to explore more avenues after the successful search and rescue mission carried out by the heat seeking drone in B.C. They constitute another search and rescue team that has agreed to participate in the pilot program. According to Mike Coyle, Manager Coquitlam Search and Rescue, a conference will be held soon in which participants from Kamloops Search and Rescue and EMBC will dig deep into the search and rescue operation that rescued seven lost personnel.
Mr. MiKe Coyle said that the industry is still in a learning phase and we are still figuring out when and where we should look to employ heat seeking drones. He was really optimistic and expressed hope that technology is going to make life a lot easier for search and rescue teams all over the world in the days to come. However, Mike Coyle did not shy away from issuing a warning for those who wanted to rely on the technology to do all their hard tasks. He said that heat seeking drones are not a silver bullet by any stretch of imagination and will never be an ideal substitute for precise, labor-focused and extremely dangerous ground based search operations.
He informed that he was even contacted by people who wanted his help on a rescue mission with their drone. He told that these people never fully understood what they were stepping into. He added that some people even say that if Lady Gaga can have drones flying all around her at the SUper Bowl, why can’t we? But he was adamant that this is not the way of doing things.
The heat seeking drone technology can certainly go a long way in carrying out search and rescue operations, saving a lot of money and time on high cost helicopters and also the time that rescuers might have to spend with their lives at stake. However, this technology has not come even close to achieving these aims. So, next time when you watch computer-generated imagery and a fabulous drone video in a top-rated Hollywood flick, keep the above facts in mind!