Drones will play a key role for Kamloops Search and Rescue - InfoNews

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Drones will play a key role for Kamloops Search and Rescue

An aerial, infrared shot of the Inks Lake area during a training session by Kamloops Search and Rescue.
February 08, 2017 - 6:30 PM

KAMLOOPS - A new piece of equipment being used by Kamloops Search and Rescue is already starting to prove its value.

Last year, the provincial government approved funding for two search and rescue teams in B.C. to begin using drones and one of those teams is here in Kamloops.

Search manager Alan Hobler says his team held a drone training exercise last week, Feb. 1, where nearly a dozen volunteers acted as search subjects in the Inks Lake area.

"We had a 200-metre by 200-metre search area," Hobler says. "We sent the drone out to go search for them."

Although the team ran into some battery problems due to the cold weather, the drone was able to fly for short stints and locate the search subjects.

"We’ve used them in much colder temperatures very effectively, so it was just a glitch," he says. "It was really effective at spotting our subjects we put out there. It was just too bad we didn’t have enough opportunity to do a thorough search."

An effective role drones play for search teams, especially during the winter, is the ability to spot tracks that otherwise wouldn't have been seen.

"You can actually see tracks that are covered in snow, so tracks that aren’t visible by the naked eye, you can... see (them) with infrared," Hobler says. "Where we observed that was over a frozen lake. You have a body of water underneath that has the same temperature and consistently radiates heat through the snow pack. Snow packs can be compact by skis or footprints."

This winter hasn't been exceptionally busy for Kamloops Search and Rescue, but performing training exercises helps keep them on their toes for when they are called out.

"It’s a little bit quiet," Hobler says. "Some winters are busier than others. We haven’t had any calls to Sun Peaks and some years we’re called there a couple of times a week."

Hobler says one thing that can help keep you safe and potentially save your life is communicating your trip plan to a responsible person.

The North Shore News reported last week that a search for a missing hiker on Cypress Mountain had ended after it was found the hiker was never missing in the first place.

An 18-year-old man had parked his car at the mountain with plans to leave it there overnight, but failed to communicate that with any of the Cypress staff. When a car was left there after hours with no explanation, crews began a search.

Hobler says this situation isn't isolated to the lower mainland; crews in Kamloops have received similar calls in the past.

"We see scenarios similar to that, where it appears that maybe someone has disappeared or gotten in trouble," he says. "The RCMP will activate us to go on a search and then later the person shows up at home or at a friend’s place, completely unaware that people are looking for them."

One way to avoid being searched for when you're not missing? Leave a note.

"I’ll see people leave a note on their seat or on their dash saying they’re gone for the day and they’ll be back at this time," Hobler says, "and that helps plus maybe an emergency contact number."

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ashley Legassic or call 250-319-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © iNFOnews, 2017

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