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The Benefits of Drones for Search and Rescue Efforts

Drones for Search and Rescue

When emergencies arise, rescue operations rely on drones. Drones are a vital aid during both natural disasters and man-made events. In fact, drones are quickly becoming the first–and safest–option. We’re looking at a few of the benefits of drones for search and rescue efforts.

While drones don’t quite replace humans, one can argue that there are circumstances in which they are the best means to carry out a search and rescue mission. Take a look.

Benefits of Drones for Search and Rescue

Most Cost Effective Search and Rescue Tool

Traditionally, responders used helicopters to find victims, deliver aid, and save lives. Today, drones are quickly replacing those helicopters. For starters, they are far more cost-effective than a helicopter. Many first responder teams are public servants. They are expected to perform miraculous rescues on a tiny budget. This disparity creates a challenge that has been eased with drones.

Helicopters are costly for first response agencies to purchase. The maintenance costs are staggering. And, the manpower required to operate them is a strain on an often low budget.

Another popular search and rescue tool is the canine team. The cost of purchasing search and rescue canines comes with a hefty price tag. And, that doesn’t even include the cost of training the canine handler!

On the other hand, drones cost a fraction of the price of a chopper. They require minimal maintenance (at least compared to a helicopter). Plus, using drone technology minimizes the cost of manpower, canine training, and keeps rescuers safer.

Smaller Size = Bigger Advantages

Drones are suited to a larger range of environments than helicopters. They can fly lower, land in tighter places, and be launched in just a few minutes. Pilots can traverse rugged terrain by ATV or horseback to reach remote areas and get the drone in the sky in less time than it takes a helicopter to complete a pre-flight checklist.

As I write this, Mount Kilauea is erupting on Hawaii’s Big Island. Drones are being used to feed data to scientists, local government officials, and rescue teams who might need to assist in evacuations. Because search and rescue won’t be an option after this volcano fully erupts, drones are able to get nearer to those hot, toxic gases to capture vital images and data that will help officials make decisions on what action is needed to prevent loss of lives. These drone missions are being conducted from a safe distance to keep pilots relatively safe.

This brings me to my next point.

Preservation of Human Life

First responders are often in imminent danger when they perform their missions. They know this, and they willingly accept the job. However, the preservation of human life is of utmost importance. That’s where drones are of benefit. They can help to preserve the lives of both victims and rescuers.

When Hurricane Katrina battered New Orleans in 2005, residents climbed to their rooftops to escape rising floodwaters. Many had only the clothing on their backs. While awaiting assistance, people died due to dehydration and lack of lifesaving medications. First responders in boats located victims as quickly as possible and tried to render aid. However, the logistics of delivering the needed supplies until victims could be extracted proved to be a challenge.

First responders were overworked, frustrated, and placed their own lives on the line to rescue people. Sadly, victims died on their own rooftops as they waited for medication, water, and MRE’s that would have sustained them until a rescue could be safely performed.

Some argue that drones for search and rescue teams involved in the aftermath of Katrina would have saved lives of those few rescuers who perished in the line of duty. In addition, they could have dropped supplies and saved those victims who slipped away from dehydration waiting for a boat to return with the basic necessities for those stranded victims. What a difference this could have made.

Quiet Operation of Drones for Search and Rescue Missions

Because drones are so quiet, they are ideal for rescue operations that must be conducted in the dark of the night and in near silence. Drones give a tactical advantage in covert search and rescue missions. They can quietly take images to determine the whereabouts of victims, gather proof of life, and scope out the surroundings so that rescue plans can be set.

Drones Can Scout out an Area Quickly

Search and rescue teams need to work through acres of land quickly to find people and save lives. But, even the heartiest rescue team can’t navigate natural hazards. Rivers, steep valleys, thick forests, mountainous terrain challenge even the most experienced rescue teams. These factors certainly slow down these rescue efforts.

During an emergency, seconds and minutes count! Drones aren’t hindered by steep or rocky terrain or rushing rivers. They fly above and around these obstacles, search vast expanses of land, and deliver data back to the pilot in a fraction of the time it would take for boots to reach the victims.

Additionally, search and rescue drones are typically outfitted with FLIR (forward looking infrared) technology. This enables the drone to send back images that the operator can identify as victims in areas of heavy brush and forests. In some cases, these areas are inaccessible by foot.

Supply Drops

In addition to finding victims, drones can be equipped to drop supplies to aid victims until help can arrive on foot. This can include water, medicine, and first aid supplies. This allows victims the opportunity to help themselves to the best of their abilities until search and rescue teams can respond to the location.

Drones for search and rescue relief use can deliver supplies quickly. This can literally mean the difference between life and death.


When some people think of drones, they think of children playing with r-c toys. But drones are much more sophisticated than some might think! When equipped to find victims, drop first aid, and survey terrain, drones are of vital importance to search and rescue missions. While they still need a human operator, they are able to penetrate even the harshest environments that aren’t fit for humans and send life-saving data back to search and rescue teams. Drones for search and rescue make the perfectly equipped team to handle any situation.




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