Search and rescue teams found simulated victims faster when they used drones for help, according to a new study that concludes drones offer enormous potential to help search and rescue (SAR) efforts, and rescue squads need to develop new standards, tactics and protocols to take full advantage of drones’ aerial perspective.
These key findings were part of the Drone Efficacy Study, a report issued by DJI, the European Emergency Number Association (EENA) and Black Channel. The study was released at EENA’s Drones & Public Safety Summit in Brussels and is available for download at this link.
“The potential for drones to save lives is clear – at least 160 people have been rescued by drones around the world – but the science of how to best use drones for public safety is still in its infancy,” said study co-author Romeo Durscher, DJI Director of Public Safety Integration. “Unlike ground-based SAR, which has refined its methods for decades, there is no playbook for drone SAR. We’re excited to be among the first groups of researchers to start writing that playbook, because our work can help save more lives.”
About the study
The study sent randomly-selected teams of searchers to find simulated victims in rocky fields and cliff edges in Ireland and Wales. Thirty teams used off-the-shelf drones with standard visual cameras, while another 20 teams searched on foot using traditional protocols. Seventeen ground search teams found their victims, compared to 23 drone teams, indicating that drone-assisted SAR protocols and procedures have not advanced enough to maximize the benefits of the technology. However, the drone searchers found their victims an average of 191 seconds faster, or more than three minutes.
“Searchers in the study said finding a victim with a drone was harder than they expected, which shows why it is vital for the SAR community to develop best standards for how to use drones,” said Alfonso Zamarro, EENA Drones Activities Manager. “What patterns should drones fly? What altitude provides the best coverage? What sensors are best for spotting missing people? Which areas are best searched by ground forces, and which by drones? Answering these questions won’t be easy, but it will have a powerful impact.”
“Four years ago, drone technology was still so primitive that it showed little value in early studies. Today, even off-the-shelf drones are powerful enough to help SAR crews find victims faster than traditional search strategies,” said Gloria Crispino, CEO of Black Channel. “We need to rigorously study how public safety agencies can best deploy their drones in conjunction with ground personnel, and how to ensure they communicate their findings to help bring every search to a fast, safe and successful conclusion.”
The study comes two years after DJI, EENA and Black Channel collaborated on research in Ireland as well as Italy’s Dolomite Mountains which showed that a properly-equipped drone could find victims faster than human searchers, and take additional active steps to achieve a successful rescue. Details on that work are available at this link.