KAMLOOPS - About 12 hours after the province approved funding for a one-year drone pilot project, Kamloops Search and Rescue received its first call requesting it's drone team.
The provincial government announced the funding for the two pilot projects — one in Kamloops and one in Coquitlam — on Friday, Dec. 9.
Kamloops search manager Alan Hobler believes the call Friday night for a drone team is indicative of how often the technology will be used.
"Just a few hours after it was announced... we had our first call requesting them," Hobler says.
The request came from Barriere Search and Rescue who were called to help RCMP find a missing person, according to a post on Facebook.
"A quick search was preformed and the subject was located in critical condition," the post says.
Hobler says although their drone team was cancelled when the subject was located, he's confident the new technology would have been able to locate the person quickly.
"It would have been perfect for that but fortunately the person was located before we arrived on scene," he says. "It was our first call out which is remarkable. I kind of suspect the drone would have probably located this missing person in about five or 10 minutes."
Hobler says using a drone also provides a new level of safety for ground searchers.
"There are two uses for the drone, one is to fly it into difficult, dangerous or hard to access locations where sending searchers in might be dangerous," he says.
The other use is the UAV's thermal imaging technology.
"Here in Kamloops where the forest canopy is relatively open it can search a larger area way quicker than we can using ground searchers," Hobler says. "Especially at night. Using the infrared we can search large areas when aircraft can’t fly, often when we’re not sending searchers out because it’s too dark."
He hopes that once the pilot project is over, search and rescue teams will be able to continue using drones.
"I’m expecting that we’re going to demonstrate a viable use of drones on searches, that they’re going to prove their worth during this one year pilot project and we’ll be approved to use it down the road and other teams and other areas will also be approved for use of drones."
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