For last night’s SAR training, Coquitlam SAR invited a local hobbyist to demonstrate his Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and answer questions about their performance characteristics for the team and members of Ridge Meadows SAR.
For the purposes of this article, a UAV is simply a radio controlled aircraft. The RC hobby is quite an old pursuit, but recent developments in technology have made components cheaper, and hint at the possibilities for Search and Rescue use.
Elliott Humphry, Coquitlam resident and UAV enthusiast has been flying fixed and rotary wing aircraft for three years and came to our attention via a YouTube video where he flew one of his UAVs to the top of Mount Robie Reid on Stave Lake.[pl_video type=”youtube” id=”7dLbobvbU5E”]
Additionally, team member Robert Sell (who recently posted a video about what is in his SAR back) has been developing his own Hexacopter in his spare time, and he brought it to demo for the team.
There is clear interest in the SAR community in using UAVs to make Search and Rescue more efficient and safer.
That is fantastic and the distance they covered was tremendous. Was that real time video back to the operator or recorded? Huge opportunities for this technology.
The video is recorded in High Def, while another camera provides a “First Person” video feed so the pilot can see where the aircraft is. The High Def camera can be oriented in any direction, and the aircraft could carry two or more of them.
Cool. I can see it now: a UAV combined with a virtual reality headset like the upcoming oculus rift (http://www.oculusvr.com/)…. first person view aerial searches Can’t wait :)
The FPV experience is pretty similar. I just ordered my Fat Shark goggles. http://www.fatshark.com/product/BASE%20SD.html
These units are so popular right now they are back ordered and I had to wait several weeks to get them. Soon the command truck will be wall to wall displays of real time feeds from air and ground searchers. :)
Hey guys, awesome to meet with the SAR team it was exciting to be part of the interest. As for video and flight time, actual flight time from launch to land was 20 minutes, I edited out the flight through the valley, Generally speaking on that aircraft I could see 45 minutes of safe flight time in moderate wind conditions, The larger plane I have yet to finish can house a little more than twice the battery life of the black one. Offering up nearly three hours of flight in callmer conditions.
Elliottt, what about distance? In the video you want a long way, which was the amazing part. Were you using real time video to fly or visual on the air craft? This has a lot of opportunity to revolutionize (modernize?) SAR, especially in higher risk areas. I can think of several searches where I would have used this. Also, what about night flying? Are FLIRs small enough yet to use on these vehicles?
Dwight, Distance wise on the setup as seen is within safe limits 15-20 km on both video and RC link. The real factor on range is battery life but that can be addressed with the aircraft setup aswell. When I fly I will hand launch the plane like throwing a baseball and fly 1 or 2 passes line of sight so I can ensure everything is in order, then i sit on a camping chair and pull the goggles down. From that point on until I land I am basically sitting on the nose of the aircraft with a full GPS/barometric/gyro assisted autopilot that has multiple autopilot modes aswell as full manual control. As far as night flying I have done a couple flights at dusk and the camera performs quite well, the gopro does not see aswell in the dusk light. As far as FLIR gear there are cameras out there that are as small as 22mm square. Some operate better than others for excess motion of the camera. I have not dug too deep into those as cost is high for a guy like myself but the tech is there and is always developing.
This can drastically reduce the cost and risk of a search. Instead of dispatching helicopter(s) and ground team you can send UAVs that can do lower pass and hover on top of specific locations. I just read another article about live crowd sourcing where volunteers can go through the live or minutes after a live video is taken searching for a person. UAVs are dispatched and the recording is published live. The technology is available and hobbyist skills can be put for good use.