Drones have proved to be an excellent resource to aid search and rescue programs. They can find missing people, deliver food and medicines, and cut down search and rescue time from days to hours. Drones provide real-time information and give quicker situational awareness of the case and hence reduce response times.
Drones are versatile, have a small size, and are portable. Also, they can be deployed quickly without a large setup. In India, many flood-affected states including Bihar floods in 2019, Uttarakhand floods in 2013 and Kerala floods in 2018 were benefited by drone technology. A drone can be instrumental in saving lives not only in case of disasters but also for individual search missions like for the people lost while hiking.
How Drones are better than manual Operations?
- Compact and Cost-effective: They have small sizes and require very little time to set up. They can be used at a fraction of the cost than a helicopter or a plane.
- Can work both during the Day and Night: Infrared thermal imaging cameras can be used to detect body heat. Due to this capability, we can find people even in the night. They can also work in smoke and fog.
- Cover large areas in less time: Drones can cover more areas than humans can do on foot or in the sky.
- Can access the hard to reach areas: They can fly over inaccessible areas that are dangerous or distant for humans.
- Can deliver food and medical supplies: They can deliver supplies at inaccessible locations during disasters.
Limitations and challenges:
- Quality of sensor data: sometimes there is a probability of missing out important data. This limitation is due to thermal cameras. At times they fail to detect body heat due to high temperatures during the day times.
- Another limitation is that they directly can not rescue people. They can only help find them and deliver supplies. To rescue people, we still need human help.
- Energy limitation: Drones have limited battery life and need to be recharged. This limits the distance they can go to.
- Environmental hazards: thought drones today are capable of avoiding obstacles, but still there is a possibility of collision with trees and other UAVs.
Drones aid search and rescue missions by finding missing people using thermal cameras, deliver food and medicine and provide a quicker situational awareness of the situation for better decisions. They are versatile, compact, cost-effective and portable. They can be deployed in dark, smoke or fog and can cover larger areas in short times. But just like every other technology the drone technology also still has some limitations. Hopefully, with more technological advancements within a few years, we will be able to overcome them