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Rescue team eyes drone technology to help search backcountry

COQUITLAM (NEWS1130) – A local rescue team wants to launch a drone to help find people missing or stranded in our backcountry. Coquitlam Search and Rescue has been working with a local company, that has a military background, to build a drone that is suitable for search and rescue operations.

Manager Michael Coyle says it would work well in situations where they have a general idea of where their target may be.

“You can send a drone in to see if the person is there without risking anybody’s life. So, the goal is basically quicker, faster and safer.”

“We could put a drone up to verify that [a person] is there. That would reduce the number of people that I’d need to send out because I would need to send them to all of the other places where I think they are.”

He adds they’d be working with drones now but it’s taking time to get Emergency Management BC, their provincial manager, to buy into the technology and settle for the legal issues.

“So, we’re trying to answer those questions for them, we’re trying to work out standard operating procedures and guidelines and things like that.”

He explains, if approved, they would definitely test a drone, strapped with an Infrared camera, at night which would be able to provide more information than what they’d normally get by simply sending out team members.

“It would only be for certain types of searches. Every once in a while we get people call in and say, ‘I’m lost and I think I’m here.’ Anything that would speed up search and rescue is always going to have an impact. And especially in the winter, sometimes the terrain is just not suitable for travel. You have a cliff or something could avalanche on you, so, you could send a drone in to see if the person is there.”

He says the drone would cost less than a helicopter.

“If we’re using them in places that we couldn’t use a helicopter then there would be some additional cost because if we’re using something that we wouldn’t have normally been using. As we all know the industry is taking off and the reason it’s taking off is because it’s pretty cheap for the amount of benefitted offers. I don’t think the cost is going to be a big factor in whether or not we use them.”

Coyle says five other BC search and rescue teams are interested in using the technology and he hopes they get their hands on one soon.