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Long-range drones a ‘gamechanger’ for emergency rescue service

by nytime
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Surf Life Saving NSW, a water safety and emergency rescue organization in Australia, is trialing new drone technology to look for missing bushwalkers or people swept into rough seas.

In recent trials funded by the government, long-range drones equipped with thermal cameras were flown to look for mock hikers who were “lost” in nearby scrubland — both during the day and at night. Buoyed by the results, Surf Life Saving NSW is now assessing if the technology could be rolled out permanently.

Drone training specialist Aviassist, which was instrumental in gaining regulatory approvals, has called the technology a “gamechanger” and likened drones to a “teammate” for first responders. Here’s Aviassist managing director Ross Anderson:

Every second counts in these situations. So, if a drone can be launched with thermal cameras, a missing person or a group of people can be found quickly and that can be the difference between life and death.

Australian Uncrewed Aerial Vehicle Service (AUAVS), Surf Life Saving NSW’s drone department adds that the findings from the five-day trial and the months of emergency service, industry, and regulator engagement would help inform decisions that have the potential to have a lasting impact on how drones are used in the state.

drone emergency rescue

“Opportunities to get so many like-minded people together and test some truly outstanding drones under controlled conditions don’t come around very often,” says AUAVS manager and chief remote pilot Paul Hardy.

“This project allowed us to safely trial different types of drones that are capable of flying further and for longer, by operating beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS). The potential of this is massive as it can remove drone operators from dangerous situations and allow us to reduce response time to incidents and provide greater situational awareness in so many other scenarios.”

Read more: Drone network operator Birdstop raises $2.3M funding

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