Search-and-rescue (SAR) tests from DJI have found that a properly equipped unmanned aircraft system (UAS) can find a missing person in a one-square-kilometer area within 20 minutes – which is 80% faster than traditional methods, according to Romeo Durscher, DJI’s director of education, who discussed these preliminary findings at the InterDrone conference in Las Vegas this week.
In conjunction with the European Emergency Number Association (EENA), DJI’s research with Ireland’s Donegal Mountain Search and Rescue found that while a five-person rescue team needs two hours on average to find a victim in one square kilometer, a UAS can not only find that victim in 20 minutes, but can take additional active steps to achieve a successful rescue.
“As we study the search-and-rescue process, we realize that finding a victim in rough terrain is just the first part of the process,” Durscher said. “A drone also must be able to transmit images and GPS coordinates to other searchers and commanders as part of a coordinated software solution, deliver small rescue payloads to a victim and serve as a beacon to guide rescuers to the right spot. Drones are already being used to save lives around the world, but we believe working with experienced emergency responders is the right way to develop a strategic approach that will maximize their capabilities.”
DJI says it is developing controlled test methodologies to continue collecting rigorous data on how drones can save lives in firefighting, SAR and other forms of emergency response, as well as better protect personnel. DJI and research and development firm Black Channel recently led a field study of drone rescue technology in extreme altitudes and weather conditions on the Adamello Glacier in Italy’s Dolomite mountains.
“I do think that the drones can improve search techniques,” said Joe Eyerman, co-director of Black Channel, which applies scientific methods to the evaluation of unmanned aircraft to medical missions, including search and rescue, emergency response and data collection. “If we can resolve some of the minor challenges we had on this study, we would be able to give them to members of the search community right away, and they could begin making the mountains a safer place.”
The project used the DroneDeploy application and included the following steps:
- Taking images from the drones and creating mosaic maps for SAR teams to select search trajectories and prioritize possible victim locations;
- Mapping to identify changes in environmental conditions that may increase risk to the search teams, including heavily forested mountain areas;
- Training local youth and mountaineers about the fundamentals of drone aviation, engineering and basic experimental design and statistics; and
- Enhancing glacier environmental studies through aerial data collection.
“We are helping the next generation become tomorrow’s leaders in safe mountaineering and first response,” said Durscher. “Enabling them to develop proper drone technology integration for the safety of thousands of visitors to the mountain range each year allows them to stay and work in their local community.”