Emergency rescue teams face unpredictable scenarios and unknown risks, where the probability of injury and death run high. Through technology, search and rescue operations have not only become less risky, but also more efficient in saving lives. The European Emergency Number Association (EENA), a non-governmental organization and a network for first responders, partnered with DJI to implement the use of drones in its emergency services in four different locations: Donegal Mountain Rescue (Ireland), Greater Copenhagen Fire and Rescue Service (Denmark), Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service (United Kingdom), as well as Search and Rescue Service (Iceland).
The aim of the project is to better understand how civil drone technology can support the work of the emergency services, search and rescue (SAR) and First Responder communities in as many different scenarios and environments as possible – from urban, rural and mountainous to forest and “over-water” conditions. This will allow first responders to obtain precise and detailed information of the emergency site from an aerial perspective. Commanders will be able to make quicker and better informed decisions, as well as carry out tasks in difficult situations without risking the operators’ lives. For example, the project in Denmark focuses on drone applications for fire fighting, chemical accidents and larger car accidents in urban and over-water environments.
Recent search and rescue tests showed that a properly-equipped drone can find a missing person in a one-square-kilometre area within 20 minutes, more than five times faster than a five-person rescue team. Drones also created mosaic maps for search and rescue teams to select search trajectories and prioritise possible victim locations, as well as identified changes in environmental conditions that could have represented a risk for the search. Most importantly, continuous evaluations and controlled tests allowed to gain useful insight on what first responders need the most, and will constitute the base for future software developments, a key step to putting the lifesaving potential into action.