Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.
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29 unmanned systems inside February/March 2017 ENGINEERING. PRACTICE. POLICY. CONNECTING UAS OPERATORS WITH FAMILIES LOOKING FOR LOVED ONES In 2013, Jim Bowers formed the organization SEARCH WITH AERIAL RC MULTIROTOR, OR SWARM, to connect volunteer drone pilots with search and rescue missions. Pilots have to meet a certain criteria, such as operating under section 333 or Part 107, and they must have a system like a DJI Phantom 4 or above. Families can contact the volunteers directly, but before they go on the mission the UAS operators must talk to Bowers or one of his colleagues about mission details, their equipment and their qualifications. "We're very careful about getting involved," Bowers said. "And it's not just about searching for the victim. Pilots can also be in close contact with the family and support them to the point they become close with them. It gives them a sense of hope and hopefully closure in the end. That's every bit as important as lifting off the ground." During searches, video taken by a drone can be linked back to the forum live so other volunteers can help with the search in real time, Bowers said. Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer can visit sardrones.org to start the process. "WE'RE TRYING TO FIND them when they're still floating down the river alive." Richard Bowie, director of operations, Down East Emergency Medicine Institute (DEEMI) Applebee, DEEMI section leader and chief UAV pilot. Before they send searchers to the scene, they determine the easiest, safest way to get there with the help of 3D modeling from DroneDeploy. During the day, images and video are deliv- ered to incident command in real time, Bowie said, giving searchers the ability to study the geo-tagged images live. If they spot something, they can send rescuers out to the exact location right away. Gene Robinson, the founder of RP Flight Sys- tems, uses the same process, and always has a 'squinter' on scene. This person sits in a quiet, controlled atmosphere looking at the images on a high-resolution monitor as the drone searches one square mile at a time; they quickly look at each quadrant before starting a more detailed analysis. "If the squinter spots something, we send out two people to look at this one target instead of putting 50 people out in that one square mile," Robinson said. "I would say that's some resource management." And for the DEEMI team, the searching doesn't stop when the sun goes down, Bowie said. The images collected throughout the day are uploaded to a server, where trained ana- lysts in different parts of the country can access them. Overnight, multiple analysts carefully sort through the images looking for identifying ob- jects, such as blue jeans or a bright colored coat. "From our phone, we can also send live video to YouTube channels where analysts log in and watch the video as the drone is f lying," Bowie said. "You're force multiplying your analysts to try to find the person." When trained properly, these squinters can find objects or clues helicopters missed, Robin- son said. A few years ago, Robinson and his team were brought in to help find a missing 2-year- old boy. About 200 people from various organi- zations searched for the child for several days, but with no luck. The team deployed their drone on a foggy morning around 9 a.m., and before noon the squinter had spotted a red object that matched the mother's description of the boy's coat. That day, searchers were able to recover the child's body from a lake not far from his home. "That sort of impact is what keeps you going," Robinson said. "The helicopter f lew over that lake four times, but trying to maneuver around power lines and trees and other obstacles and dealing with vibration and people talking in their headsets—all while trying to look at every- thing in the process—is a difficult task. We've had a least three scenarios where a helicopter f lew an area and didn't find anything, then microdrones recently completed a successful water rescue demonstration. To read about it, visit insideunmannedsystems.com. ON THE WEB