I wrote a short piece summarizing the current state of UAV use in Canada with respect to Search and Rescue for the Canadian Avalanche Association’s Avalanche Journal, linked below (page 14)
Considering the obstacles UAVs face, what was the reaction, if any, from the public, media or politics regarding the rescue of someone using this technology? What are the objections? Unfortunately, we are facing similar problems in the United States regarding the acceptance of this tool for locating lost persons. We have had several incidents where after several days of unsuccessful searching, people or victims have been found within a much shorter time using a UAV. Regrettably, politics have come into play and the FAA has shut down the use of this tool until it can come up with its own set of rules and regulations for the use of UAVs. After years of debate, they are no closer now than when they started.
We’ve had very little public input to our investigations.
We’re in a very different situation in Canada where we have a regulatory path to legal use of UAVs. The RCMP (our national police force) has a fleet of about 50 of them that they use primarily for traffic.
Based on my research, I am not in favour of unregulated use of UAVs. They can be dangerous when operated “illegally” and outside of the strict restrictions imposed by Transport Canada. My SAR team, as most teams in British Columbia, make extensive use of helicopters in our searches. One UAV, flown into our search area, by someone who wants to “help” could kill members of my SAR team.
The “fight” I’m experiencing is not that the authorities are banning them, but they don’t want to see them used without some kind of oversight. This is reasonable, as we have that kind of oversight for other rescue techniques; there are safety and performance standards to be met in any kind of rescue from Rope, Avalanche, Swift Water, helicopter, etc. I don’t see the use of UAVs for SAR to be any different.
We’re finding a general sense of acceptance, and a realization that the capabilities of the UAV could go a long way toward reducing SAR costs.
Regarding your claims of finding live people with your devices, can you point me to any documentation? I hear a LOT of anecdotes on this, but very little analysis.