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Posted by on Oct 8, 2015

Personal Drone Use in Search & Rescue on the Rise

Personal Drone Use in Search & Rescue on the Rise

Search and Rescue (SaR) using sUAS and personal drones is becoming more accepted and practical as technology advancements continue – as well as public perception. Small success stories are popping up every week and more and more drone pilots are preparing to volunteer in their communities as the network grows. 

unnamed-300x191Outside of regional and local agencies getting into using their own drones for such services – often curtailed due to the cost of entry barrier, most are relying on volunteers to step up and help at a moment’s notice.

DJI Stories – Search and Rescue:
DJI recently featured this video which I found very encouraging to the SaR cause.

D.E.E.M.I. is a search and rescue organization from Maine specializing in aerial and ground search missions for people in the community who have gone missing. One vital component to D.E.E.M.I.’s success is the practice of high-resolution imaging during a search, enabled by their fleet of Inspires. Recently, those Inspires have begun to take an even more important role in D.E.E.M.I.’s life-saving efforts- one that places them directly in the face of danger.

Drone finds missing local man:
Near the town of Fitchburg, WI an elderly an was missing for a few days when the family was getting worried that search efforts were coming up empty-handed. That’s when a local UAV operator for help with a search and found the man within just a few flights with his small drone that he used for shooting snowboarders. Here’s the local news site with the updates as they happened and video interview:


But the FAA still doesn’t approve of drones/sUAS being used for SaR use and is telling organized groups they are not allowed to fly these missions.

According to, one Texas group that specializes in this kind of assistance for search-and-rescue operations has seen similar saves happen with the use of remotely piloted drones, but the Federal Aviation Administration tried to put a stop to their operations with a cease-and-desist order. Luckily, Nationally-recognized drone lawyer, Brendan Schulman went to bat for them and got the C&D thrown out because it wasn’t a formal letter and there was no formal identifiable legal consequences attached to it.

We all can only hope that SaR volunteers will persevere and continue to fly when called on (and ONLY when working with the local authorities in charge of a situation – not getting in the flight path of emergency vehicles and airborne firefighters).

SaR Panel featured at InterDrone 2015:
One of the more popular panel discussions at this year’s InterDrone conference was titled Drones Saving Lives in Firefighting and Search and Rescue, with an overview article (linked) to Blogcritics. This panel moderated by Drone Coalition’s own Kerry Garrison, also featured Jim Bowers, the founder of SWARM (Search With Aerial RC Multirotor), which has about 3,000 volunteer members currently.

The SWARM network is a serious group of volunteers, willing to drop what they’re doing and put their drones int he air to help in an emergency – not unlike a volunteer fire dept.

The linked article also features an interview with Mr Bowers discussing the types of craft used and how SWARM was started.

We can hope that more organizations can get a large network of professionals and volunteers together and actively available to lend a hand when called upon. If you’re a qualified pilot and have the desire to help, please check out the national, regional and local registries and see where you can sign up.