WE ARE SERIOUS ABOUT USING DRONES IN OUR SEARCHES
While not a new tool for searchers, the use of unmanned aerial platforms (drones) for Search and Rescue operations serves a VERY critical part in finding lost persons. DEEMI Search & Rescue recognized this a number of years ago and acted on it then.
DEEMI is recognized as the very FIRST Search and Rescue agency in the country to receive an FAA Part 333 waiver certificate back on April 6, 2015 (!!) authorizing us to fly a unmanned aerial system for SAR operations. That waiver has expired and we now operate under FAA Part 107 with at least two pilots both whom have an FAA 107.29 waiver for authorization to fly at night.
We have been using drones in most our operations for nearly 4 years!
Since our first search drone on May 31, 2016 when we were called to assist Orono Fire Department looking for a missing kayaker, we have used our drones 53 times assisting partnering agencies such as Bangor PD, Orono FD, Maine Forest Service, Maine Marine Patrol and Maine Warden Service, as well as at the request of a number of families. Our drone searches have spanned along waterfronts of the Penobscot River, Kenduskeag Stream, Penjajawoc Stream, and the Penobscot Bay in Hancock and Stockton Springs; deep into the woods in the Pistol Lakes region; behind the Bangor Wal-Mart; and into the towns of Presque Isle, Hampden, Bangor, Old Town, Frankfort, Staceyville, and Columbia Falls, just to name a few.
DEEMI presently uses SIX unmanned multi-rotor copter platforms: one DJI iNSPIRE 2, three different DJI INSPIRE 1s (with high-res infrared FLIR camera and payload drop mechanism and 18minute flight time), a DJI Phantom 4 (with 28minute flight time) and a Phantom 3
Both our drone pilots and Richard Bowie have been professionally interviewed and appear in three different national and regional magazines – Inside Unmanned Systems Feb/Mar 2017, Aviation for Women Sep/Oct 2017, and AMC Outdoors August 2017.
News media organizations such as BDN, WABI, WVII, WGME and more have run stories and videos of our abilities of using UAVs for SAR purposes since July 2016.
The thermal imaging camera we use is the DJI Zenmuse XT, a FLIR camera. This unit is the higher resolution camera, 640 x 512 pixels with a 13mm lens sampling at 30hz. With this thermal camera, we are not restricted to visual light conditions. A thermal camera will sense heat signatures in daylight or darkness and it will often ‘penetrate’ through tree canopy layers more readily than a visual camera can. Perfect for detecting persons in peril.
Like our other cameras, we post-analyze images from the XT using specialty software from FLIR to optimize the objects of interest and eliminate the non-essential features.
We have a number of cameras and payloads that can be used or deployed on our drones, including the X5 with three fixed lenes and a zoom for the Inspire 2 and the standard DJI X3, DJI Z3 ZOOM camera, and the high-res FLIR XT 640 (30hz, 13mm) cameras. Using a drop mechanism, we are able to drop life vests, clothing, medicine, water, communication tools, etc. to a found victim or person in peril or need. We recently added a high lumen, tactical light to illuminate search areas from the air in remote areas. Finally, we have an underwater sonar device that can be dragged by the Inspire 1 to monitor the bottom of lake or stream if our searching takes us underwater.
While searching for a missing person, we usually use either a grid type search pattern or an active real-time viewing search method. With either method, we record numerous, overlapping high-resolution images that are viewed for content and analyzed for anomalies and objects of interest by an on-site image specialist and, after uploading to a central server, by remote trained analysts.
DEEMI Search & Rescue DRONES in the NEWS
WVII-7 FOX22 Bangor did a special video segment titled “EYE IN THE SKY” which highlighted DEEMI and Hermon Fire Chief Frank Roma and our uses of drones in SAR and for first responders.
AVIATION FOR WOMEN
In this international magazine, SIC UAV pilot Nancy Rimm Staples is highlighted in an article titled “THE POWER OF DRONES, INSPIRATION FROM A MAINE UAS PILOT”. (to read the article, click on the thumbnail to the right or here)
INSIDE UNMANNED SYSTEMS
In this national magazine dedicated to UAS, DEEMI was highlighted in a special UAS SEARCH & RESCUE article titled “HELP FROM ABOVE” . Article content was provided by DEEMI Director Richard Bowie and Chief UAV pilot Vinal Applebee. (to read the article, click on the thumbnail to the left or here)
DEEMI and SIC UAV pilot Nancy Rimm Staples were highlighted in an article titled “SEARCH AND RESCUE DRONES TAKE FLIGHT”, in this regional magazine. (to read the article, click on the thumbnail to the right or here)
Click on the photo below to view a neat explanatory video of a recent DEEMI practice FLIR mission. (or click here) This video was produced by Nancy Rimm Staples, one of our UAV pilots and owner of Rimm Air, LLC.