It’s been proven globally, and now in the United States: drones have tremendous potential to help in search-and-rescue efforts. They can save lives.
Flying drones for such purposes anywhere in the US without FAA approval is against the law, says the FAA, but civilian search and rescuers have been testing this policy.
Texas Equusearch, which sued the FAA earlier this year over its right to use drones in rescue operations, was given special permission in September by the FAA to fly drones for four days in their joint search with the Plano, Texas police department.
The search for 23-year-old Christina Morris is on hold, but search and rescuers are proving the technology’s value. Earlier this summer, for instance, a drone hobbyist helped locate an 82-year-old man who had wandered into a Wisconsin soybean field.
And, it turns out, would-be search-and-rescue drone pilots even have their own organization.
In the tiny Northern California town of Colfax, CA, drone hobbyist Jim Bowers was drawn into his community’s search for a missing local man last year. Today, he is building a worldwide search-and-rescue group called SWARM. It’s an organization of drone pilots — now in over 47 countries — who stand ready to volunteer for families searching for missing loved ones.
“Traditionally, fixed-wing airplanes, helicopters have always been used for search and rescue, but now with the advent of this new technology in drones, we can get in up close and personal,” Bowers told Business Insider.