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UAS and Search & Rescue

Discussion in 'Public Safety' started by BigAl07, Aug 10, 2016.

  1. BigAl07

    BigAl07 Moderator
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    The FAA has "clarified" their stance in regards to UAS used in any SAR type of flights. Many SAR groups are putting out memos, mailings, VLOGs etc about this right now. Basically it boils down to this.... Search & Rescue is well outside of "Recreational/Hobby" flights and as such they are deemed "Commercial". This will require one of the following:

    • FAA Section 333 Exemption (and all that exemptions requires)
    • FAA Part 107 (remote pilot airman certificate with a small UAS rating)
    • COA (Public Entity)

    If you want to volunteer your services with your local EMS groups then go ahead and get your Part 107, contact the group to let them know you are "current", offer to join, and TRAIN with them. Search & Rescue is a tightly orchestrated event which requires specific classes to be able to work WITH the team efficiently and safely. Most require FEMA's classes under NIMS: ICS-100, ICS-200, ICS-300, IS-700, and IS-800 just to be considered part of the IMT.
     
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  2. duse500

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    Thanks,good info
     
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  3. theTastyCat

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    Because knowing how to read a METAR and being aware of the organizational hierarchy of a three-man drone team would make all the difference in a SAR situation.

    I will give you my truck if I ever read the headline: "Missing woman located by drone pilot, subsequently prosecuted for failure to have commercial certification."
     
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  4. theTastyCat

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    Already been posted here, but this article:

    Citizen’s drone spots missing teacher; now sheriff’s office wants one.

    TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) — The Tippecanoe County Sheriff’s Office is in the process of buying a drone after one owned by an area citizen helped find missing teacher Krista Perdue alive Tuesday evening.

    Between being understaffed and crunched for time, Tippecanoe County Sheriff Barry Richard says Tuesday’s missing teacher investigation was a challenge.

    “We were kind of thinking how are we going to be able to do this?” said Richard. “Obviously, we are going to maximize our manpower to go out there and do a physical search.”

    Their saving grace?

    A call from a citizen. This person doesn’t want to be named, but they offered their drone to search the area around a retention pond near Krista Perdue’s home on Trackside Drive in Tippecanoe County.

    “That was a no-brainer,” said Richard. “We obviously took the owner’s offer up on that.”

    From the ground’s perspective, it’s difficult to see what’s inside tall weeds. But from an aerial view, you can cut your search time in half.

    “If we did not locate the individual when we did,” said Richard. “Who is to say another night out in the elements or another 12-24 hours without being located, it could have ended up being a lot more serious or a fatal situation.”

    But even with the help of a drone, the sheriff’s office had to make special arrangements for the search.

    “We had probably a dozen individuals out there and those are individuals working off duty, working different shifts,” said Richard.

    He said his proposed five-year plan to add 10 more deputies would help with future investigations like Tuesday’s search.

    “If you have sufficient man power, you are able to do it with the men and women who are on duty and able to do it at that time,” said Richard.

    He is still hoping the county council approves that plan this summer. But before then, you may be seeing some robotic deputy assistance.

    “Lt. Ruley is looking in to all the fine details of getting it ordered and placing the order today,” Richard said referring to Wednesday.

    The sheriff said they’re going to train people and make sure they’re following federal drone regulations. But he feels the new drone will prove to be successful, as it did in the successful search for Krista Perdue.





    Soooo.....here's what never happened:

    "Sheriff's Office."
    "Hey, I have a drone, can I help you find the missing teacher?"
    "We're super understaffed and if we don't find her soon, she'll die, but you sure as hell better have a 107 before we let you."
    "Oh, I don't have a 107."
    "This is no time for someone with an incomplete understanding of cloud formation to be interfering. Goodbye."
     
  5. BigAl07

    BigAl07 Moderator
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    You obviously have little to no understanding how most organized SAR missions work. You're going to see more and more REAL Search & Rescue related organizations opting to purchase their very own UAS. This is because you need to be a part of the team in order to be able to integrate with the rest of the teams in the organization.The very LAST thing we want to happen is for someone who is on a search to be hurt or lost. Everyone comes home every time.... and this can only happen (at least on complex large searches) when every person on scene is able to communicate and understand what everyone else is talking about. One misunderstanding could mean searching the wrong area or worse critical information/materials/resources going to the wrong area and someone in need NOT getting what they need.

    Will there be times when a citizen with a drone can call and offer help? Absolutely. Just like when a person goes missing people come and offer to go into the woods looking for them. Same difference but due to liability and other factors more and more organizations are following the FAA regulations (and after Aug 29th the Part 107 reg is enforceable and has real teethe instead of a strong suggestion) and if an Incident Commander allows a not certified operator to operate on scene they open the whole organization up to possible legal backlash. For instance... what if that UAS operator causes some type of "incident"? The AHJ's insurance is going to deny the claim.

    The National Association for Search & Rescue (NASAR) announced last week that after Aug 29th any work done within the national infrastructure was to follow all FAA regulations. As such regardless what tTC above thinks organized SAR will require the operator to be credentialed or be asked to leave the scene.

    Now of course there will be times with an informal search takes place (usually lead by the family of a missing person) and John-boy with his drone is allowed to help (and it's possible to get POSSIBLE results from this) but when the search goes formal and EMS issues an IC and we start dispatching equipment and personnel you can bet your bottom dollar (and your beloved truch tTC) that they will adhere to Federal guidelines.

    One last note... more often than not when we are on scene for a live SAR we are not the only aircraft in the area. We have to work in coordination with search copters, search planes. For the larger searches we also have a small Cessna we keep airborne that is the "Repeater" for our radio systems the search team and IC use to stay in constant contact. If you don't understand Aviation you can't integrate safely with manned aircract and you have no place being there.
     
  6. theTastyCat

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    In the article I posted, the situation was anything but the ideal "organized SAR mission." A drone operator volunteered his resources and saved a life. If they had followed the all-important federal regulations, that person may well be dead, and that is even implied by the Sheriff in the article. There's a lot of local authorities in rural areas that don't have such an abundance of resources that they even have a DEDICATED AIRCRAFT TO SERVE AS A REPEATER...obviously if they've got that, they've got more than enough resources to not need any outside help. And there's a lot of places in this country that don't have that. This article is case and point. In the real world, situations are rarely ideal, and nothing happens for long periods, then everything happens during one shift. Especially in times of widespread disaster, people need to rely on themselves and each other. But we've been through this before.

    And I do understand aviation; I did my time for every minute of ground school.

    We're just never going to agree on this, and we don't have to. If I was the drone operator in the article, I would have offered to help. Whether or not you would have is your business.
     
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  7. BigAl07

    BigAl07 Moderator
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    I fully understand your point of view but I also understand first hand what more is involved beyond show up and fly. Here are just a few examples that ANYONE who wants to be a part of this needs to go into it understanding:

    • It's not always as it appears:
    • What if it turns into a criminal investigation and you have to appear in court to testify? Are you prepared to lose time from your paying job?
    • Digital Media. . . what now?
    • Do you know how to handle the digital media so that it conforms to Chain of Custody requirements and it's not thrown out in a court of law? Your actions could have a very drastic effect on the outcome of a criminal trial.
    • Workers Comp in the field
    • Who is going to pay your medical bills should you trip and break a leg or something while out in the field? If you're not "officially" part of the group their Worker's Comp is going to deny. W-C is looking for any loophole to NOT pay. If a time stamp or signature is in error on a log-in/log-out form they DENY (ask me how I know this).
    • And here come the questions and heart felt requests
    • Do you know how to handle Media Sources and Family assets when they bombard you with questions (And they will do this even while you're trying to fly the mission)? Can you answer them without jeopardizing the integrity of the mission? You say the wrong thing or give the family an ounce of hope (right or wrong) and your area will be flooded with good willed people trying to help. Those same people could be stepping on and destroying key elements needed to track the missing person down.
    • When you can't seem to "leave the scene" behind
    • Who is going to help with post incident therapy should you come across something harsh and gruesome and it just seems to "stay with you" months after the mission? I'm not reaching for straws here this is a VERY common occurrence and something you need to be ready for ahead of time and be ready to do something about it after the fact. SAR has a system in place to help responders get through these situations and it's not easy. We help because we care so much but that soft place in our heart is also a weak spot that gets exploited when we see certain things or actions.

    If anyone is sincere about wanting to help beyond just your neighborhood support take the time to do the research and TRAIN with your local EMS/SAR groups. It's a lot of work, time, and stress but it's a GREAT and REWARDING experience every single time. Even when the outcome isn't what we want we genuinely enjoy the challenge and have a passion for SAR as well as helping your fellow man in a time of need.

    If you REALLY want to help here's a FB group that's created specifically for UAS uses in SAR

    SWARM - Search & Rescue Drones

    and of course there is always the National Association for Search & Rescue (NASAR)
     
  8. sar104

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    Your points are all accurate for volunteers working under a formal SAR organization - which varies, of course, by state. However, under all State SAR Plans that I'm aware of (and certainly ours), the formal organized search has no monopoly, and generally no authority, to prevent members of the public from searching in their own time and at their own expense. Such searchers are not covered by insurance, and all liability is personal. If they want to use drones then that is, by default, allowable if it is not in a prohibited area such as wilderness, National Park, or other such location.
     
  9. WetDog

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    Be careful with that approach. If a Law Enforcement Agency or Government Agency puts up assets you will be in a very different situation. They can, and will, tell you to go away. Best to listen to them. It is very common to have LE / government assets involved in searches. If you are not part of the team, you might not even be aware of that.

    We're working with the Coast Guard very carefully about coordination on searches. Takes lots of time and thought and practice. Those HH-60s will swat a Phantom out of the sky without a second thought. A bit expensive, that. Not to mention the world of hurt you would be in if you hit the tail rotor or something else. Pretty unlikely but awfully catastrophic.

    When in doubt, stay out.
     
  10. sar104

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    Yes - agreed - but you may have misunderstood the perspective of my comment, which is as a Search & Rescue Incident Commander in control of all ground and air resources on a SAR mission. If I don't want air traffic conflicts with private UAVs, news helicopters or whatever then I will request a TFR, at which point those aircraft will be told to "go away". But in the absence of a TFR, I cannot and, in general, am not required to, restrict public UAV activities whether in casual support of the search or otherwise. In certain situations that unsanctioned assistance may be helpful in the same way that other non-agency personnel or assets such as hikers, riders etc. can, and do, participate.

    In the case of participating certified SAR resources the ruling is clear - UAV use is non-recreational, but that notwithstanding, whether or not the FAA chooses to characterise all use of a non-SAR-agency, recreational UAV flown by a member of the public as non-recreational because they happen to be looking for clues is up to them. My suspicion is that unless that activity interferes with the SAR operation it is not likely to happen because it would be difficult to prove that the involvement with the search was not incidental to a recreational flight. These kinds of activities are clearly taking place, so I guess that time will tell.
     
  11. WetDog

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    I don't disagree with anything you mention - perhaps I would shade it a bit more paternally in terms of 'generic' advise to some Good Samaritan type person who wants to help but is not formally involved with SAR. That being, as someone who is not hooked into the command structure you will likely not know if there are other airborne assets or governmental assets in play.

    Thus, you can get yourself into trouble inadvertently by trying to get involved. I think the general message from organized SAR is for everyone else to stay away. Not that people listen to even law enforcement, much less what often appears as random folk wandering around in the wilderness. Even if this sounds overly paternalistic and obnoxious, it's based on a long history of having to deal with well meaning but unprepared and unorganized 'help'. The addition of a UAV just adds another wrinkle.

    In my local SAR group, we have a mechanism whereby non members can help in a search, but they have to check in, follow assignments, carry a radio and get briefly inspected for suitability ('hey, I know it's your friend but the flip-flops aren't going to cut it'). If the FAA hadn't made SAR part of 107 regs, we could have stuck them under that system but at least our city lawyer thinks that even if they are 'irregular' they need to conform to all Federal regs. Of course, it isn't really that simple. SAR here is part of the volunteer fire department. To be part of the VFD federal regs state you have to have the usual Evil Bit Checks and paperwork. We don't enforce that for irregulars.

    Now I'm getting all riled up....

    Anyway, I would strongly suggest anyone remotely interested in UAV SAR work to get in an organized group. The part 107 regs are annoying and a bit onerous but it's good info and really helps if you do have to integrate with other aircraft. Reading sectionals and METAR is good knowledge. The Incident Command Structure courses that bigal07 mentions are easy to run through and again, required knowledge for anyone in the field. You meet fun people. Maybe fly in a neat helicopter. You get to tromp around in the middle of the night with flashlights. Somebody might feed you.

    What's not to like?
     
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  12. sar104

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    Absolutely - nothing at all not to like and that is fine advice for anyone interested in participating in SAR.

    SAR in NM is administered by DPS under the jurisdiction of State Police, and run by civilian SAR ICs overseeing a mixture of volunteer and agency SAR teams. In terms of non-SAR personnel participation, the situation varies. Sometimes we enlist them formally and have them check in and carry a radio, but only if they are willing and we assess them as sufficiently competent (including no flip-flops). Beyond that I have no authority to prevent members of the public from searching independently, whether on foot or via UAV unless I advise LE to declare a crime scene, attempt to argue that they are interfering with the SAR operation (fraught with liability issues and only very rarely invoked) or, in the UAV case, I implement a TFR. Whether a UAV pilot is aware of a TFR is a different problem, but also applies to manned aircraft - I've had those breach TFRs (presumably unknowingly) too.

    That only applies during the formal SAR operation. Once a mission is suspended with no find, casual search activity often continues for an extended period. For example, a search on and around the Rio Grande earlier this year was suspended after 4 days due to poor conditions and an inadequately defined IPP, but the unofficial, amateur effort, that made extensive use of Phantoms, continued for six months until the subject was eventually found. The pilots were not SAR personnel and regarded their efforts as recreational.
     
  13. JWH

    JWH

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    Excellent post. I am a pilot and understand the need to control the airspace, and the search in general to be efficient and avoid accidents. I would assume the liability for injuries are on the individual in a volunteer situation. I hadn't thought about your legal points regarding the possibility of a criminal investigation.
     
  14. BigAl07

    BigAl07 Moderator
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    Liability depends on who is "Running" the mission. If it's an official SAR mission then the Agency Having Jurisdiction(AHJ) will be where the liability is at. This is why often times self dispatch is turned away. When something goes wrong the "vultures" go after the biggest fish in the pond and that's usually the AHJ.
     
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  15. JWH

    JWH

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    You are correct about the vultures. I worked for the F.A.A. for almost 30 years. We always had to be very careful with every move we made on the airport. The lawyers look for the deepest pockets.
     
  16. BigAl07

    BigAl07 Moderator
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    And that's the exact vultures I was talking about.

    With that being said I wouldn't show up on any location without at least $500K liability insurance just to be safe.
     
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