This post originally appeared on http://wabi.tv/2016/07/24/deemi-using-drones-for-search-and-rescue/.
[Editor’s Note: Drones enable search and rescue groups to go farther, faster and help with spotting individuals on the ground through tree canopy. Drones can also be used to drop life jackets, as well as, water bottles and medical supplies.]
The Down East Emergency Medical Institute is a group of volunteers who assist in search and rescue operations. They are always looking for new ways to help people who may be stranded or lost. That is why they have started using drones. We spoke with Chief UAV Pilot Vinal Applebee.
“Two years ago pretty much DEEMI was the first in the country to get their part 333 authorization from the FAA and that gave them the capabilities to fly UAVs or drones in a commercial setting.”
Although they’ve had their approval for a few years, DEEMI now feels that they have the proper equipment and training to put their drones in to action. The group says the use of drones is a signifigant advantage in search and rescue operations.
“We can go farther, faster we certainly have the ability through the use of an infrared camera, to spot subjects on the ground through the tree canopy that might be otherwise difficult for ground search parties to locate.”
But the drone program isn’t just for finding someone who is lost…
“We have the ability to drop life jackets to victims if they’re out in the water. Water bottles, medical supplies, tablet, cell phones, whatever we feel from our observation point that the person might need immediately for immediate assistance.”
The use of drones isn’t without its setbacks. The FAA often has strict regulations on the use of commercial drones like the ones used by DEEMI.
“We have to notify airport locations, we have to follow pilot NOTAM before we launch. There are just some extra footsteps but it’s all in the name of safety so we think it’s good.”
DEEMI however is one of the few organizations that are allowed certain exemptions by the FAA. Which is good news for this group of volunteers and the people they help.
“We basically don’t know what we’re going to get all the time till we get there we want to be as well prepared as we can to help the person lost.”