SAR’s eye in the sky

PAUL TAYLOR – Mountain Scene

BREAK your leg up a Queenstown mountain or fall down a ravine and your life could now be saved by a drone.
Wakatipu Search and Rescue has taken delivery of a $3500 ‘unmanned aerial vehicle’, which will be used as a search tool.
The drone has a range of 2km from its controller, features a high›def camera and can be deployed from a backpack.
It streams footage from the camera to a tablet attached to the controller.
Wakatipu SAR chairman constable Craig Gibson says: ‘‘This will be invaluable.
‘‘It can look up cliffs, down holes and in difficult spots, filling a specific role we currently find difficult to complete without tremendous cost.
‘‘There will always be limitations. It can’t deploy a team, recover a body or carry a payload, but you can search, record, plan and then search again with it.’’
Bought by Queenstown Lions Club for the organisation, Gibson says the drone would have been useful in many SAR operations over the past few years, such as a car crash at Wye Creek last April.
‘‘Aerial footage taken by a UAV would have proven a valuable briefing tool for Alpine Cliff Rescue.’’
Gibson says the drone could even be used in urban areas to search for missing children or dementia patients.
‘‘We’ve got a lot of waterways here so you have to find them as quickly as possible.’’
The Phantom 3 Professional drone has a 14 megapixel, 1080 HD camera.
It can travel on a pre› determined flight path using GPS points and has a ‘return to home’ fail›safe if it flies out of range. It is programmed not to fly within 4km of an international airport.
Gibson says SAR got a ‘‘tremendous’’ deal from Mac Ops Queenstown on the drone, which also trained SAR to use it.
Lions club member Wal Hayes says: ‘‘We’re a community organisation and this will undoubtedly benefit this community.’’ [email protected]



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