SAR testing drones Saturday

dronecollage.jpgCoquitlam Search and Rescue is hoping to get a few more eyes in the sky.

The local volunteer organization is exploring using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) in some of its incidents and will be putting the technology to the test Saturday.

“It’s just in the investigative phase,” said Coquitlam SAR manager Michael Coyle.

He said some teams might opt to purchase their own UAVs, but in Coquitlam’s case, there is a Vancouver company, North Guardian, that has the units and trained pilots and will be hosting the demonstration this weekend.

There are two types of UAVs available, a quad-copter and fixed-wing. The helicopter can run about 15 minutes before needing to refuel, while the plane can go for nearly an hour.

The biggest benefit of the vehicles, in addition to their ability to cover a lot of ground, is the recording devices that will be mounted.

This, said Coyle, gives the team the ability to rewatch footage to ensure no one has been missed. “It’s another way to increase efficiences in a search.”

He also envisions a UAV being used for “very large searches in the back country,” and for installing radio repeaters so SAR members can more reliably communicate.

Financially, Coyle roughly estimated he could run four UAVs for the same price as one helicopter.

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