UAVs are used for SAR missions by emergency departments, such as police, firefighters or other rescue teams, for searching over large and remote areas for missing people in need of rescue and in any environment.
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can provide real-time data and information about emergencies. Also, they can help to find a person that was lost in the forest or mountains.
During the emergency SAR teams need to receive the accurate information about situation on site for rapid response and save time for right decisions. UAVs can provide detailed information on video or images in short term, reducing the cost and risks of search and rescue missions during the mission.
UAV can not only provide the detailed footage and data from the air, it can also help crews reduce expenses, form teams according to the information provided and keep workers safe, ultimately speed up efforts the spot where every second matters.
Let’s take a look at one of the most expensive SAR operations in the last years, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 perhaps the most publicized SAR operation of the last years. Same time the most expensive search effort ever undertaken. During search operations, 118,000 square miles off the southwest Australian coast represented the preliminary search area.
After the first week of using a narrowed search range, vessels broadened the search area significantly. By April 28th, almost two months after Flight 370’s disappearance, 19 ships and 345 aircraft sweeps had conducted a surface search that covered approximately 1.8 million square miles of the Indian Ocean.
Now let’s talk about 345 aircraft used during the SAR operations. When we are talking about SAR, it is very important that aircraft should stay on low altitude, so clouds will not cover the ground or water surface, for plane its mean serious losses in distance of fly with higher fuel consumption.
Long range UAVs like Raybird-3 was designed to fly on altitude up to 3000 meters, and it can travel around 2500 kilometers, this result seriously better than for helicopters and very compatible with ultra light, light and medium aviation.
Next is fuel. During the flight on low altitude, plane will use even more fuel than average flight, which is also not cheap. On low altitude, it can be 300$ – 400$ per hour, while UAV Raybird-3 will use 1$ – 2$ per hour. The difference is huge! 1000 hours of Raybird-3 flight will cost like 3 hours of search and rescue plane flight. Now imagine 345 aircrafts were used during the SAR, and it is only about fuel.
Next important point is 345 aircraft should take off somewhere and land. Even if all 345 aircraft will do 2 trips, not every airport can handle it, it’s a lot of airports where 345 vehicles will be serviced easy for sure, but you never know where trouble will happen, and usually, it will be far away from the comfortable airport. Long range UAVs can be delivered to any place for takeoff, it can be field, roof, truck or even minibus like VW transporter which you can see around the city every day.
We just describe narrow part of the situation. We did not talk about technical service of vehicle, preparation time and complication of all process together.
However, UAVs and drones can never replace a rescuer it will be one more tool in a crew’s arsenal to collect information to better assess dangerous situations and save lives. With all of the quick evolving advancements in UAV technology, the potential for drones in the emergency response sector is only going to reach new heights.