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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34 unmanned systems inside February/March 2017 AIR SEARCH AND RESCUE adjust, which might include finding new ways to launch and recover their systems, Hendrix said. They always have to be on the lookout for downed power lines and other dangers, and to come equipped with water and other supplies, such as snake bite and first aid kits. "The most important thing is to be safe," Hendrix said. "You don't want to create a situ- ation where you have to rescue the rescuers. Work in teams. Have radios and always use the buddy system." Of course drone operators must understand how to work with incident command, Hendrix said, and to only f ly in areas they're told to f ly in. These scenes are often pretty chaotic, with manned aircraft part of the operations as well, making it vital to communicate and coordi- nate with other first responders. Other Challenges As more organizations deploy drones for SAR, they'll have to find a way to safely integrate them into their rescue efforts. Darren Goodbar, UAS coordinator for Response Programs for the Virginia Department of Emergency Manage- ment, is working to develop policies and proce- dures to define how third party volunteers and organizations can fit into the integration process. In working with SAR organizations, it be- came clear to Goodbar that these experts are good at what they do, whether they handle K-9s or search on the ground. Giving them another task, such as operating a drone, takes them away from what they're good at and could lead to inefficiencies. That's where third parties, such as police, fire departments and UAS service providers come in, but then the question becomes what qualifications do those third party operators need to have. "Can they operate effectively and know what's going on in the incident command cen- ter and what's going on in the response situa- tion? Do they know how to integrate into inci- dent command? Operators need to be familiar with all that," Goodbar said. "We're working with SAR experts on how to plug this into an organization that's been around for 60 years. It's not as easy as it would seem." Goodbar is also working with Robert Koester, CEO of dbS Productions and an expert in search theory, to determine at what altitude and speed drones are most effective for search and rescue. By plugging information into SAR software— data such as where the person was last seen and the drone's sweep width value, that is the span covered by the drone's sensors on each sweep— searchers can determine the best approach. This would incorporate the probability of where the subject has gone, a good f light path to cover those high-probability areas as well as those areas that are the quickest to search and elimi- nate. The drone's operators can then follow the prioritized plan, performing flights at different altitudes and flight speeds for the best results. "The major research objective right now is measuring that sweep width value for the vari- ous sensors you put on a UAS platform," Koester said. "To optimize any resource one should have a sense of what the sensor can and cannot do and its abilities and limitations. What is the best camera altitude? What's the best speed? If these factors are quantized then I can figure out the best way I can use this resource." The Future The first responders Griffin works with are excited about the technology and how it can make search and rescue quicker, cheaper, safer and more effective. He sees fire departments, sheriff departments and SAR organizations investing in their own UAS for these missions, especially as regulations continue to become more defined and the cost of purchasing a drone comes down. Already there are affordable options like the DJI Inspire 1, Bowie said, so it only costs a few thousand dollars to add UAS to the SAR tool chest. If they crash and break the drone during a mission it's not a big deal; they can easily and economically find a replacement "THE MAJOR RESEARCH OBJECTIVE right now is measuring that sweep width value for the various sensors you put on a UAS platform." Robert Koester, CEO, dbS Productions WORKING WITH THE COMMUNITY During fl ooding and other disasters, many of the community members that searchers come in contact with have lost their homes, their animals and maybe even loved ones, Hendrix said. Often, operators will need to launch from some of these community members' homes, and it's important they remember to be sensitive and to explain what they're doing. Adding a liaison to the team who is from the community is helpful, because the request is coming from someone the property owner trusts. Photos courtesy of Lone Star UAS Center of Excellence,