During a search and rescue operation time is of essence. The difference between finding and rescuing a missing person alive or death can be as short as minutes. Therefore, new technologies are constantly being tested to make search and rescue operations be more effective and efficient.

The use of aircraft for search and rescue is not a new concept; the first civil use of a helicopter during a SAR operation dates back to November of 1945. However, over time the use of helicopters has dramatically changed to include not only a pilot, but also a local expert of the terrain (especially in Mountain Search and Rescue) and additional personnel. This has contributed to increased cost and also increased risk. Furthermore, not every search and rescue team has fast access to a helicopter and the weather conditions are not always favorable for the deployment of a manned aircraft.

In 2016 DJI, the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial and consumer drone, has put focus on learning about the challenges of search and rescue operations and is actively trying to find solutions to these challenges. The goal is to integrating these solutions into DJI’s aerial technologies. Drone will not replace the use of a manned aircrafts, but it will become a very effective tool for not only urban search and rescue, but also for maritime and mountain search and rescue missions.

To satisfy the immediate needs of any search and rescue operations, an aerial platform must be easy to transport, be deployable within minutes, be intuitive to operate, provide valuable information, be weather resistant and cost effective. There are additional needs to make this technology even more useful and an integrated part, such as secure live video stream capabilities back to an incident command center and to the ground team. Furthermore, autonomous flight functionality and software assisting the surveying of the search area.

Early results from the DJI and EENA (European Emergency Number Association) partnership to test DJI platforms at four pilot test sites in Europe, indicate that search and rescue personnel can benefit from aerial technology in several ways. The proper use of the technology has lead in test scenarios to a reduction in time to locate a missing person by 60-80%. Furthermore, the aerial view and live data provides valuable information to the ground teams and enables them to stay out of dangerous areas during the search and rescue missions.

The majority of DJI’s platforms are open for the SDK, the Software Development Kit and it allows third party developers to code apps for specific purposes. These apps assist the operator in a variety of functions and are a perfect platform to create solutions for the needs of search and rescue scenarios. As part of the DJI and EENA Partnerships, a search and rescue app is being developed by one of the pilot test sites. This app will provide a variety of valuable functionality to the operator and increase the efficiency of the aerial platform.