When a missing persons report is filed, time is of the essence. When a search and rescue team is put together, most people tend to think about tracking dogs. While dogs, with their amazing sense of smell, are great at locating injured or missing people, they are getting some extra help from an eye in the sky. What is the most amazing part? People are able to get this aerial view while remaining safely on the ground. The Swiss Federation of Civil Drones has been teaming up with the Swiss Association for Search and Rescue Dogs (Redog) for almost a year. Drones have been used in 12 of the 22 search and rescue missions during that time, including last Wednesday’s landslide that caused eight people to go missing. More than simply a fun hobby, these drones are upping the odds that the teams and dogs will be able to find people and save lives.
The drones and the dogs divide and conquer the search area. With a quick buzz over sections of open terrain, drones’ cameras are able to get a clear picture of whether or not the dogs should be sent in that specific direction. The dog teams are able to focus their hunting efforts in densely wooded zones, or places where the drones cannot safely fly. This efficient approach shaves hours off of a search. These hours can easily be the difference between life and death for someone who is missing in the wilderness.
The quick flying drones make the search-and-rescue missions much safer for people too. They are able to easily survey areas of land like high cliffs and other places too dangerous for people and dogs to search on foot. If the drone team makes a discovery or learns that emergency help is required, the appropriate teams can be sent in.
Previously, the dog teams occasionally teamed up with helicopters for the most urgent search-and-rescue missions where an aerial view was beneficial. This however, is a much more costly option and is not as environmentally friendly as it uses more energy and requires fuel. Dominique Peter, one of the pilots of the Swiss Federation of Drones, said that eventually drones will be incorporated in all of the Redog search-and-rescue missions. While the drones used, like the Matrice 600, can run with high price tags up to $35,000, they still actually help to save money long term.
These drones are awesome new sidekicks during search-and-rescue missions. With the strong communication between the drone specialists and the Redog team, the drones allow the dogs to use their time more efficiently when time is ticking away and to conserve their energy during intense missions. By allowing the Redog teams to complete broader searches in shorter increments of time, they the missing people a greater chance of being found fast and safe.