Coquitlam SAR is very happy to announce that Emergency Management British Columbia has agreed to support our proposed pilot program to use Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs or “drones”) for Search and Rescue.
Coquitlam SAR has been working on this initiative since late 2012, and began testing UAVs for suitability for Search and Rescue in 2013. We partnered with a Canadian company, North Guardian UAC Services (now K2I Unmanned) to provide subject matter expertise in UAVs, while Coquitlam SAR members concentrated on the SAR applications.
Our team has pioneered the concept of incorporating professionally operated UAVs as a service run by contractors when needed. The rationale for this approach is that we believe SAR members should not have to maintain a set of expensive equipment and skills, not to mention the legal, insurance, and regulatory requirements for piloting UAVs. Since Transport Canada has been unequivocal in their ruling the SAR is a professional use of UAVs, this means SAR teams must adhere to the stricter requirements to operate.
By partnering with a professional UAV services company for this pilot program, Coquitlam SAR will have access to professional pilots and a dedicated SAR-specific UAV when the need rises. In addition, Coquitlam SAR has asked neighbouring SAR teams to participate in the pilot program – Surrey SAR and Ridge Meadows SAR have agreed to train their members with our team to act as UAV Operations for any tasks, making this a regional SAR pilot.
The pilot program will run for one year, during which time Emergency Management BC will authorise the use of UAVs under certain circumstances using a similar method to how helicopters are handled. The Pilot program will gather statistics and hold monthly meetings to discuss the results of any operations. The pilot includes our team sharing information and exchanging best practises with Kamloops SAR who are also a major participant in this pilot. At the end of the pilot, the effectiveness of various responses and the capability of the UAV program will be evaluated.
We’d like to thank the many people who have worked hard over the past few years to bring this project to fruition, including our UAV operators, EMBC staff, the BC Search and Rescue Association and the many SAR volunteers who’ve dedicated their time.