Following the successful drone use within Surrey Search & Rescue’s operations, training provider Consortiq is hopeful that more charities of this kind will take advantage of the benefits of this technology.
Instead of relying on police helicopters to find and identify missing people, UAVs can be effectively utilised to carry out this task, at a lower cost and often with a higher availability than their manned counterparts.
In the case of Surrey SAR, changes made across the country meant that the availability of police rotorcraft for this type of operation decreased after the establishment of the National Police Air Service, so it turned to drones to help fill the gap in search and rescue.
Consortiq sponsored some of the charity’s pilots through a training programme, which led to Surrey being the first SAR division in the UK to use drones with fully qualified operators.
“We thought this would be an excellent way to put a sensor – either a camera or thermal imager – in the air quite cheaply to achieve our aim of finding people quicker,” Seamus Kearns, Head of Operations at Surrey SAR, and Chief Instructor at Consortiq, says.
The charity has adopted several small UAVs for surveillance applications, as well as a larger system that can transport a payload such as a radio, lifejacket or defibrillator to the scene if required, which eliminates the potential risk of sending a manned team to do the job.
The SAR course was developed alongside the Surrey charity some 12 months ago, and Consortiq has additionally provided SAR training in Tayside and Hampshire, as well as to one customer in the Middle East.
“It is predominantly the UK now, but we have just launched the emergency services course over in the United States, which is being developed for fire services out there as we speak,” Kearns notes.
He added that Surrey SAR provides services to both the police force and fire service, which is a unique aspect, leading it to be one of the busiest out of all its counterparts in 2016.
“As police forces are getting cut there are less people available, so there is more and more demand for search and rescue forces as they are getting called out.”
Additionally, the Consortiq team is about to travel to Northern Ireland to train the police force there on how to use drones in emergency situations in line with new exemptions that have rolled out in the UK, and these personnel will be the first trained to carry this new work out.
“Emergency services will have the ability to fly further away than anybody else during emergency scenarios, so we will provide the equivalent of blue light driver training to the police in Northern Ireland,” Kearns says.
Consortiq will be at the Emergency Services Show at the NEC in Birmingham from the 20th-21st September 2017.