It could be a game changer in the way search and rescue teams find missing people.
Emergency Management BC has informed search and rescue teams across the province that they can now request the use of an RCMP UAV — or drone, to assist in a search.
Vice-President of the BC Search and Rescue Association Colin Wiebe calls it another tool in the tool box.
“They are able to get into some areas that would make it quicker for field teams. Some may have thermal imaging, be able to stream video, they can fly in areas where a lower ceiling is available that would prohibit say a helicopter.”
Wiebe says the RCMP pilot will man the drone.
“I don’t think it’s the magic bullet that is going to solve everything for us. It’s another opportunity for us to use some newer technology. I don’t think you are going to see us calling out drones for every single search that goes on. I think we are going to see it come out couple of times and go from there.”
Manager of Coquitlam Search and Rescue Michael Coyle says if RCMP resources are tight, search and rescue crews should be also be allowed to contract out private drone operators to assist in search missions for missing people.
“We have access to RCMP helicopters for searches but often they are busy because they are police equipment and they are used for other things and sometimes it is really limited to whether or not the pilots are available. This is a first step, but we would like to see is similar to how we would use private helicopter contractors.”
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In a statement to CKNW, B.C. RCMP spokersperson Staff Sgt. Rob Vermuelen says the Office of the Privacy Commissioner was first consulted.
“Over the last few years, Emergency Response Teams and Search and Rescue units have recognized the value of Remote Piloted Aircrafts in increasing situational awareness and ensuring the safety of officers and volunteers during critical incidents and rescue operations.
In consultation with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of BC, the BC RCMP has expanded the mandate of using RPAS to include disaster response, search and rescue efforts, and situations where deployment of ERT is required.
The BC RCMP respects the privacy rights of British Columbians and is committed to ensuring the preservation of those rights, balanced with public and officer safety, in using RPAS in the course of our policing duties.
RPAS are regulated by Transport Canada and those owned and used by the BC RCMP are operated by trained RCMP pilots who are well-versed in the strict regulations for commercial use of the systems.”
A proposed pilot project is being reviewed to determine if a Search and Rescue volunteer could operate a drone, or if the team could hire a contractor.