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SAR ?'s

Nik

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I had a couple of questions about SAR that I've been going over. I joined our local SAR group almost a year ago hoping to be able to use my UAV and skills to assist someone in need. We have not had the need since I joined, but I see possible issues. The area we cover is large (Mt Whitney to Death Valley) and most rescues are technical in nature and do not need searching capabilities of a UAV. The first question I have is regarding flying in wilderness or National Park areas. I know both are not allowed, but has anyone looked into getting or received some kind of "blanket" permission for SAR missions? If so what process was followed? Or even if you've gotten case by case permission, I would be curious to know. I am worried that I will not be able to get permission in time to be useful in a search situation.

Second I am looking for anyone with experience using FLIR in SAR missions. I am looking into dronexpert.nl's solutions, and they look pretty good. If anyone has some FLIR experience, I'd love to hear it.

Thanks,
Nik
 

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Hello Nik and welcome to the forum.

I've been "doing SAR" with UAS for a while now. I launched on over a dozen different SAR missions in 2017 locally and dispatched to other states in my area. Where I operate we have to deal with NPS land issues (Blue Ridge Parkway for instance). As of right now (to my knowledge) there is no "blanket" permission. It almost takes an act of Congress to get permission and it's case by case.

Now to the GOOD aspect... if you have a SAR mission and it's on NPS land there is usually (at least here this is the case) a representative from the NPS at the Command Post and they can authorize you for a specific mission. Keep in mind they may give you strict stipulations etc but it can be done. If you get permission you need to DOCUMENT it very well. Who you spoke to and exactly what they are allowing you to do. Fly within those guidelines precisely otherwise you're out on a limb and all alone should an "incident within an incident" happens.

On our last SAR mission (it was not SAR but patient extraction from a water fall injury) the NPS had already granted my approval prior to me arriving on scene. The IC had called for me specifically and had all the "hoops cleared" before I pulled up to the Command Post. I had to show my legal documents/ID to the NPS, we exchanged contact information, and I had to explain what my game plan was and how I could do it safely and within FAA regulations (easy as pie). I just about hit the ground running on that one. That was AWESOME but NOT the norm unfortunately.

In terms of "Wilderness Areas" I've not ran into a problem with them in terms of SAR missions so I can't speak on that.

We don't have FLIR capabilities yet but hope to change that in the very near future.
 
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Maddog

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Not to hijack the thread but the issue of flying over NPS property, for example, has been discussed a lot.

Some people feel that only the FAA can grant and deny permission to overfly provided you are not on NPS property when you take off or land.

As far as I'm concerned, if the on-scene authority gives permission to fly, that's good enough for me.

As a side note, for those who are unaware, government agencies such as law enforcement are regulated differently in that they can have blanket permission for night ops, SAR, etc.
I learned this from a local PD who has a drone unit.

@BigAl07 can you provide some clarification on how this works in the "real world"?

@Nik welcome! You will never get authorization for anything from the FAA in a timely manner.:(

I think it would be best to do what BigA does and establish a contact with the NPS who can assist you when you are needed.

I used FLIR extensively while flying Notar's for the PD. The principle for FLIR on UAV's is the same but I'm not familiar with the equipment available. The cameras I have seen are in the $3K-$10 range if you want something decent.

You would want to have a blanket night ops waiver before investing in that as FLIR is most useful at night.

Check out this new thread:
Night Operators
 
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Nik

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Hey guys, thanks for the responses, I really appreciate it. I think you are both right about relying on the on scene authority. Our SAR unit is all voluntary and works under the sheriffs umbrella, they are the ones in contact with NPS, wilderness rangers etc to run the rescue. I have heard of times when they have had a hard time getting permission to land to retrieve a body. Permission is generally very quickly granted when we give them the other option, they will be responsible for recovery.

I think building a good relationship with the proper agencies and educating them on what drones can do is most important. There is still a lot of educating to do.....

I have some other business uses for the FLIR, so I am going to be purchasing something in the next few months. Likely on the lower cost range.

Nik
 

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...Some people feel that only the FAA can grant and deny permission to overfly provided you are not on NPS property when you take off or land.

As far as I'm concerned, if the on-scene authority gives permission to fly, that's good enough for me.
We don't have the luxury of flying "not on NPS" land. At least not realistically speaking. Most of our SAR operations take place smack in the middle of NPS land and we have to play by their rules. Granted we could "go rogue" but as soon as word got out our division would be greatly reprimanded and possibly "penalized" to the point where UAS flights were no longer utilized.

As a side note, for those who are unaware, government agencies such as law enforcement are regulated differently in that they can have blanket permission for night ops, SAR, etc.

I learned this from a local PD who has a drone unit.
If the Department operates under a Public Use COA many of the "waiverable" operations can be built into the COA like you stated: Night Ops, Flying Over People (only flying over your people not John Q. Public) Flying in Controlled Airspace (such as near an airport) but to my knowledge you can not build NPS operations into the COA because the NPS is the one who gives permission to fly from their land. While you would think the FAA could/would build NPS permission into a COA I've not seen one written that way... at least not yet.

@BigAl07 can you provide some clarification on how this works in the "real world"?
I apologize as I'm not 100% sure what you're asking for. It's been a long day and I've been in UAS meetings with Public Safety officials for 6 hours and I'm brain fried. Can you re-phrase that for me and I'll give it my best.

.@Nik welcome! You will never get authorization for anything from the FAA in a timely manner.:(
When working with Public Safety we can get "Fast" authorizations but it's not easy. It takes lots of signatures and verifications but in a true emergency situation it can be done. It was called an eCOA (Emergency COA) but now it's called an SGI, Special Government Interest. The process can be as short as a few minutes (if you're lucky) but the first time I'd allow a few hours. You have to be working with Public Safety and you'll need some pretty hefty signatures to get the wheels turning but it can be done.

I think it would be best to do what BigA does and establish a contact with the NPS who can assist you when you are needed.
A LOT of what we do is building relationships and connections so we have them at our disposal in the future. I'm a collector of names & numbers and it's served me very well over the years.

Good luck and fly safe :)
Allen
 
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Outta Control

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The first question I have is regarding flying in wilderness or National Park areas. I know both are not allowed, but has anyone looked into getting or received some kind of "blanket" permission for SAR missions?
I think some already answered your question but I do know most of CA State Parks are good with drones. You just have to inform the supervising ranger.

Second I am looking for anyone with experience using FLIR in SAR missions. I am looking into dronexpert.nl's solutions, and they look pretty good. If anyone has some FLIR experience, I'd love to hear it.
I own/use a FLIR but unfortunately not during a SAR mission. If this is something you are really looking into. You don't need to spend a lot of money on a FLIR. If you have a specific question PM me.
 
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Maddog

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We don't have the luxury of flying "not on NPS" land. At least not realistically speaking. Most of our SAR operations take place smack in the middle of NPS land and we have to play by their rules. Granted we could "go rogue" but as soon as word got out our division would be greatly reprimanded and possibly "penalized" to the point where UAS flights were no longer utilized.


If the Department operates under a Public Use COA many of the "waiverable" operations can be built into the COA like you stated: Night Ops, Flying Over People (only flying over your people not John Q. Public) Flying in Controlled Airspace (such as near an airport) but to my knowledge you can not build NPS operations into the COA because the NPS is the one who gives permission to fly from their land. While you would think the FAA could/would build NPS permission into a COA I've not seen one written that way... at least not yet.



I apologize as I'm not 100% sure what you're asking for. It's been a long day and I've been in UAS meetings with Public Safety officials for 6 hours and I'm brain fried. Can you re-phrase that for me and I'll give it my best.



When working with Public Safety we can get "Fast" authorizations but it's not easy. It takes lots of signatures and verifications but in a true emergency situation it can be done. It was called an eCOA (Emergency COA) but now it's called an SGI, Special Government Interest. The process can be as short as a few minutes (if you're lucky) but the first time I'd allow a few hours. You have to be working with Public Safety and you'll need some pretty hefty signatures to get the wheels turning but it can be done.



A LOT of what we do is building relationships and connections so we have them at our disposal in the future. I'm a collector of names & numbers and it's served me very well over the years.

Good luck and fly safe :)
Allen
Thanks for your detailed reply- I learned some things I wasn't aware of. The drone business is evolving so fast it's tough to keep up.
 

Outta Control

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@Outta Control,
I think it be helpful to all of us if you could point us to some "budget-friendly" FLIR options.
Thanks MadDog,

The short answer would depend on the type of work you want to do but more importantly I would like to dispel a couple of myths about thermal use on sUAS.

#1 Resolution: You do not need the highest resolution to get the best image.
#2 Radiometrics: This allows temperature reading on your target, which you really don't need.
#3 Camera does not make someone a good thermologist, the person that can properly interpret the data can.

Now for the subject at hand, if you want to get into thermography look into the FLIR Duo (non-Radiometric). This is a sub-$1k thermal device which is a great tool to have and make good money as you progressively learn.
 
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Maddog

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Thanks MadDog,

The short answer would depend on the type of work you want to do but more importantly I would like to dispel a couple of myths about thermal use on sUAS.

#1 Resolution: You do not need the highest resolution to get the best image.
#2 Radiometrics: This allows temperature reading on your target, which you really don't need.
#3 Camera does not make someone a good thermologist, the person that can properly interpret the data can.

Now for the subject at hand, if you want to get into thermography look into the FLIR Duo (non-Radiometric). This is a sub-$1k thermal device which is a great tool to have and make good money as you progressively learn.
Thanks- I used FLIR when flying for the PD, but that was a $150,000 unit.

What are your recommendations for drone- mounted FLIR to locate a person the ground? Do these units provide any benefit during daytime (given a good temperature difference)?
 
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Outta Control

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Thanks- I used FLIR when flying for the PD, but that was a $150,000 unit.

What are your recommendations for drone- mounted FLIR to locate a person the ground? Do these units provide any benefit during daytime (given a good temperature difference)?
Great question.

For your needs I would recommend the FLIR VUE (not PRO) in 9mm, 30hz.

Of course this does depend on other factors but that is a quick and dirty answer.
 

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Thanks MadDog,

The short answer would depend on the type of work you want to do but more importantly I would like to dispel a couple of myths about thermal use on sUAS.

#1 Resolution: You do not need the highest resolution to get the best image.
#2 Radiometrics: This allows temperature reading on your target, which you really don't need.
#3 Camera does not make someone a good thermologist, the person that can properly interpret the data can.

Now for the subject at hand, if you want to get into thermography look into the FLIR Duo (non-Radiometric). This is a sub-$1k thermal device which is a great tool to have and make good money as you progressively learn.

@Outta Control Excellent information.

Do you know if there is a FLIR DUO option that works on the DJI Inspire 1 V2 platform?
 
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Outta Control

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@Outta Control Excellent information.

Do you know if there is a FLIR DUO option that works on the DJI Inspire 1 V2 platform?
Hi Big,

Unless you mean full integration. I do not know of one but with a little but of tinkering sure.

The great part is the Duo is shaped exactly like a GoPro cam which has lots of accessories.

Here is an acceptable set up for cheap.



Update: I correct myself.


FLIR Duo gimbal for Inspire 1 (Full HD downlink)
 
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BigAl07

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@Outta Control which of the DUO is what you'd call "minimal" in being able to provide SAR and Fire Dept auxiliary support? We don't have a huge budget but spending ANY money on something that doesn't do the job is worse than spending too much on something that does.
 

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@BigAl07 if the main driver for this camera is for SAR and such I would recommend looking at a FLIR VUE part# 436-0004-00 they are currently on sale.

This unit will not record thermal images just a pass through. If you wasn’t to record then the price jumps up a lot.
 

BigAl07

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@BigAl07 if the main driver for this camera is for SAR and such I would recommend looking at a FLIR VUE part# 436-0004-00 they are currently on sale.

This unit will not record thermal images just a pass through. If you wasn’t to record then the price jumps up a lot.

Thank you @Outta Control . I don't think the VUE will fit into the Inspire1 V2 gimbal we discussed earlier:
FLIR Duo gimbal for Inspire 1 (Full HD downlink)

So if I go with the above gimbal which means I need to stay with the DUO form factor, the Radiometric option adds roughly $300 to the base price. How "wanted/needed" is Radiometric for SAR and Fire Dept support type scenarios?
 

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...How "wanted/needed" is Radiometric for SAR and Fire Dept support type scenarios?
Good question.

Menlo Park Fire Department, possibly the most advanced sUAS fire department in the world, has all the nice tools. Last year they hosted their first a drone symposium for first-responders and in most cases they did not bother using radiometric even though they purchased it from DJI. All they cared about, was visual thermal detection.

 
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