Search and rescue situations always have a sense of emergency around them. This is why in such situations, each and every second is important and must be used as efficiently as possible. The possibility of using drones in such operations comes into discussion because of their ability to cut out the time it takes humans to survey large swathes of lands as they can do it aerially in a far quicker time. https://www.propelleraero.com/blog/drone-photogrammetry-how-drone-photos-turn-into-3d-surveys/
There is an argument that operations of an immediate nature where lives are at risk normally do involve the use of plans and helicopters already and therefore, there is no point doing the same operations with drones, especially since they can’t carry any rescue personnel with them on their operation. However, there are a number of points that go in the favor of drones as compared to helicopters and planes. There are a few facts about planes and helicopters that points out why it becomes too difficult to use them in some operations:
· They take some time in getting deployed
· They consume a lot of fuel and prove very costly
· They need a human pilot to be sent along with them in dangerous situations
· They cannot get very close to the emergency as they need to maintain a definite vertical height to avoid crashing.
The use of drones can bypass all these problems as they need no pilot onboard and can fly very close to the ground to get a better idea of the situation. Drones are currently being best used in the danger zones as they provide a view of the situation beforehand enabling the rescuers to formulate a strategy that will be effective and efficient enough to tackle the situation in as little time as possible.
The great thing about drones is that their performance can be enhanced with add-ons as well. For instances, there can be various devices attached to the drone such as a gas measurement device or a thermal image camera. Gas measurement devices are helping rescuers in detecting the type of smoke that is present in the fire which helps the fire fighters determine their strategy of putting out the fire.
In similar situations, drones with thermal imaging cameras are easily identifying humans within a fire with its thermal imagery which helps the rescue teams not only realize that there are humans trapped but can also help in locking their exact locations. Thermal imaging with drones is also helping in rescue efforts during snow storms or avalanches, to name a few.
There are a number of search and rescue operations that actively use drones to aid their missions. SWARM is an international volunteer group which has a very strong batch of drones as well as operators who offer their help with drones in many rescue operations. Texas Equusearch is another organization working in Texas and the organization aids law enforcement forces whenever requested.
Civil pilots are currently not allowed to use drones for official search and rescue missions though with drones becoming ever more important in such missions, it is expected that the FAA will lax its regulations with time.