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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33 unmanned systems inside February/March 2017 ENGINEERING. PRACTICE. POLICY. "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." Gene Robinson, founder of RP Flights Systems Menick, the firm's sales and marketing director. They've used drones in a few missions so far, in- cluding a flood in Jakarta last September. More than 20 people died during the event, and Basarnas operators f lew the UAS to look for survivors as well as corpses in the water, Menick said. The durable drone has a two- hour f light time and can withstand high winds and harsh weather conditions, making it well suited for this type of work. The UAS f lys with a gimbal that carries a high-definition camera and an infrared camera. Typically, the team would f ly a manned he- licopter for this type of search and recovery ef- fort, which Menick said is much more costly and dangerous than flying a drone. "If you lose hardware, it's so much better than losing a pilot or crew," Menick said. "This is the beginning of a new era for them. They can use equipment that doesn't risk their lives. They just f ly it. They don't have to f ly a helicopter in a dangerous environment and worry about landing it in a small area." Trained to Help Menick spent time training the Basarnas team at Swiss Drones' headquarters in Switzerland and in Indonesia, and said this training was critical to ensuring the drone was operated safely and effectively. Flying these search and rescue missions—whether you're looking for one person or several—isn't something for untrained personnel or hobbyists who think they're help- ing when they're really not. The fact that Part 107 requires operators to be certified is a positive when it comes to en- suring they know the rules of f lying, but that doesn't make them qualified to take part in SAR missions, Robinson said. Public safety has to be held to a higher standard, he said, which is why he's developed a training pro- gram for search and rescue operators. "I've been out on missions with people who don't know what they're doing and it becomes a hindrance," Robinson said. "You don't send a newbie out when a life is on the line." Dallas Griffin, managing member of Lone Star UAViators, also trains first responders on how to effectively use drones during these missions, and recently completed an exercise where rescuers were able to locate a target in seven minutes. While it would take rescuers much longer to find a missing person in a real life situation, the result of the demonstration does help show what UAS can do. "We had someone wander into the woods and using applications such as DroneDeploy, which is what I use to f ly a grid pattern, we took real time photos and looked at them on a larger screen," Griffin said. "First respond- ers could see exactly what the drone saw. Our telemetry shows heading, altitude, speed and direction from the base station, so they can fo- cus their search on the specific area the drone went. It doesn't waste a lot of time." Training for these situations doesn't just come down to knowing how to operate the drone, though that's important. Responders also have to be mentally prepared to handle what they'll see in a disaster torn area, Hendrix said. Not only is it dangerous, there are a lot of frightened people who may have just lost their home or a loved one. Responders also have to be prepared for the environment and be ready and willing to Photos courtesy of Swiss Drones Indonesia-based SAR organization Basarnas uses Swiss Drones UAS for missions, including a flooding event last fall.