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Monday, April 22, 2024

Global Lifesavers Unite: Groundbreaking Drone Rescue Initiative Takes Flight with International Coalition

On 3/22, DRONERESPONDERS launched the Flotation Device – Water Rescue Working Group which included representatives from: FDNY, Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, Menlo Park Fire Protection District, Corona Fire Department, Hamilton Fire Department and Queensland Police Service. Each of these departments have been working on similar deployment of drones for water rescues. Since the original announcement, 20 additional organizations have joined the working group.

The purpose of the group is to share best practices, policies, procedures and test methods of payload deployment to more quickly advance this life saving drone payload.

Anyone who has been trained as a lifeguard or been involved with rescuing a panicked swimmer, knows that this can quickly become dangerous for the rescuer.

The use of drones equipped with flotation devices for life saving in water rescues is becoming more prevalent with public safety as it provides a quick stabilization of the swimmer and makes the rescue safer for the responder.

In swift water, it is often difficult to locate a person captured in swift water, the drone serves two advantages; first to locate the distressed swimmer more quickly and if it is carrying a flotation device can provide some stability for the swimmer until they can be safely removed from the water. Having this capability in and around large bodies of water can add an additional means of stabilizing swimmers until a lifeguard can safely bring the swimmer back to shore.

According to their website, the Australian UAV Service (AUAVS) has instituted the largest coastal drone surveillance program in the Southern Hemisphere. The AUAVS’ program includes the following public safety use cases:

  • Marine Search and Rescue (SAR)
  • Incident Response and Support
  • Wildlife Surveillance
  • Event Safety and Risk Mitigation
  • Beach Assessment and Mapping
  • Aerial Data Collection and Analysis

A great amount of credit goes to Paul Hardy who has been instrumental in this program’s success.

In the U.S. and abroad, more public safety agencies are realizing the value of drones in swift water situations as well as in coastal areas that are notorious for dangerous rip currents. At this years’ DRONERESPONDERS National Public Safety UAS Conference, FDNY Captain Michael Leo shared that in addition to its traditional drone program, will be exploring drones for water rescue situations. Other departments in Canada and other countries have either started similar programs or are considering it. To be clear, this type of program does not replace the normal lifesaving procedures and but does serve as an enhancement by adding a new tool in the rescue tool box.

While departments are considering this approach, there is much to be learned in the various techniques, drone drop capabilities, flight with this payload. For this reason, DRONERESPONDERS has launched a Flotation Device Water Rescue Working Group to share best practices, share test results with various payloads, and UAVs. The desired outcome is to advance the effective use of this type of program while reducing duplicative work. In this way, experimentation can be divided among participating departments to learn the best methods and share this information with other interested organizations.

If interested in participating on this Working Group which is open to public safety, beach lifesaving organizations or any organization responsible for safety near large bodies of water.

There is no cost to participate although it will be necessary to join droneresponders.org (takes 30 seconds and is also FREE).
author avatar
Charles Werner
Charles Werner is the retired Charlottesville fire chief and 46 year public safety veteran. After retirement, Charles worked with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management for 2 years as senior advisor/acting deputy state coordinator. Charles served in numerous leadership roles at the local, state, national levels on public safety initiatives. Presently serves as Director-DRONERESPONDERS Public Safety Alliance, Chair-National Council on Public Safety UAS, BOD - Airborne International Response Team, and appointed by Virginia Governor Northam to serve on the Secure & Resilient Commonwealth Panel and serve as Public Safety UAS Sub Panel Chair. Charles also serves on the International Association of Fire Chiefs Technology Council. In 2004, he served two years as a reserve deputy sheriff with Albemarle County. Chief Werner is a FAA certificated Remote Pilot. Chief Werner also serves on the Virginia Center for Innovative Technologies Advisory Board. Charles is a contributing editor to Firehouse Magazine, Crisis Response Journal and an author with 150+ internationally published articles and serves as a contributor to numerous other public safety publications. Chief Werner has numerous commendations, three Virginia Governor’s Awards of Excellence, recognized as the National Career Fire Chief Award in 2008 and Homeland Security Today’s Person of the Year in 2018.
Charles Werner
Charles Werner
Charles Werner is the retired Charlottesville fire chief and 46 year public safety veteran. After retirement, Charles worked with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management for 2 years as senior advisor/acting deputy state coordinator. Charles served in numerous leadership roles at the local, state, national levels on public safety initiatives. Presently serves as Director-DRONERESPONDERS Public Safety Alliance, Chair-National Council on Public Safety UAS, BOD - Airborne International Response Team, and appointed by Virginia Governor Northam to serve on the Secure & Resilient Commonwealth Panel and serve as Public Safety UAS Sub Panel Chair. Charles also serves on the International Association of Fire Chiefs Technology Council. In 2004, he served two years as a reserve deputy sheriff with Albemarle County. Chief Werner is a FAA certificated Remote Pilot. Chief Werner also serves on the Virginia Center for Innovative Technologies Advisory Board. Charles is a contributing editor to Firehouse Magazine, Crisis Response Journal and an author with 150+ internationally published articles and serves as a contributor to numerous other public safety publications. Chief Werner has numerous commendations, three Virginia Governor’s Awards of Excellence, recognized as the National Career Fire Chief Award in 2008 and Homeland Security Today’s Person of the Year in 2018.

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