Search and Rescue crews launch UAV pilot in B.C.

A more-effective means of searching terrain that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to search by traditional ground searchers

Minister of State for Emergency Preparedness Naomi Yamamoto announced last week Emergency Management BC’s (EMBC) endorsement of a one-year pilot project for the use of unmanned aerial vehicles – “UAVs” or drones – by search and rescue crews in Coquitlam and Kamloops.

UAVs have the potential to be valuable to emergency management personnel. An increasing number of search and rescue and public safety agencies in North America are using these tools to help ensure the safety and security of residents while keeping emergency personnel safe in their jobs.

EMBC will ensure these tools are used in a way that takes into account privacy considerations, as well as ensure that they would be operating within Transport Canada regulations.

In 2016, the Province committed $10 million in funding that is being distributed by the British Columbia Search and Rescue Association (BCSARA) over a two-year period, based on the proposed Alternative Support Model that was supported by its members. These funding allocations are given according to the needs of the local ground search and rescue teams to replace or update equipment, provide administrative support and pay for new or additional training.

This investment builds on the $6.3 million the B.C. government is already providing annually to cover ground search and rescue operational costs for deployment, as well as training and equipment costs, and the insurance and liability for the members of the 80 groups serving throughout the B.C. landscape.

“Search and rescue volunteers demonstrate a steadfast commitment to the safety of families and communities throughout this province. I am proud to support these local heroes and this pilot project which could save many lives,” stated Naomi Yamamoto, Minister of State for Emergency Preparedness.

Alan Hobler, Search and Rescue president, Kamloops, says, “We have been testing and training with these UAVs for a while now and are very excited to apply this technology to real searches. In some applications UAVs will be a more-effective means of searching terrain that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to search by traditional ground searchers. Searcher safety is paramount for us and now we have a new tool that we can use in places or circumstances that may pose a risk to our searchers.”