As Federal Aviation Administration guidelines stand, do-good hobby pilots cannot legally fly their drones to assist official search and rescue workers. While this will likely be addressed by the FAA as they write another round of UAS-law, and public and governmental agencies are already using drones, a community of civil pilots are already poised to use their aircraft to help.
So you want to offer your drone and equipment to help out in emergency situation? If you want to get involved, remember that you must wait until an official investigation is complete. But even then, don’t just run out into the field with your drone. This stuff is complicated and the law leaves room for interpretation, which can result in a mess. So Make: tapped a mix of civil and public pilots for general search and rescue rules to know before you go out on your own.
The international group SWARM has over 3,000 registered pilots that responds to calls from families of missing persons each week. Texas Equusearch, a private mounted search and rescue group in Texas uses drones to locate missing persons, with the blessing of local law enforcement.
In addition to selecting your equipment, youll have to prepare for weather, terrain, and being outside in remote areas for hours. Merle Braley, a hobby pilot and creator of SWARMs website, has a backpack ready with essentials: 12 charged batteries for the transmitter, a notebook to record battery life and track the time, FPV goggles, a 4’6′ army green blanket to spread out his gear, a fluorescent orange vest to wear when he flies, a poncho to spread over the gear if it rains or if the ground is wet, waterproof hiking boots, and energy bars. He also brings binoculars and a spotter a buddy who can keep an eye on the drone and communicate interruptions so the pilot can remain focused.
Before You Go:
Resources and Prep for Civil Search and Rescue Pilots
First, get educated. Join a forum, like SWARM’s Facebook group, for discussions about equipment, programs, and search techniques. In addition, study up on best practices for data collection like these from CRASAR. And get trained in the workings of the National Incident Management System, as it will likely manage the operation.
Good luck and thank you for volunteering your equipment and yourself to help out in an emergency!