MOUNTAIN RESCUE SERVICE

The customer and task assignment

The Czech mountain rescue service conducts search and rescue missions in mountainous terrain, gives first aid and provides the transport of injured, it informs the public on meteorological and snow conditions, carries out the patrol activities on mountain ridges and ski slopes and provides the avalanche monitoring. It started to use the Robodrone Kingfisher system in autumn 2015 to support all of the assigned tasks.

The drone selection and configuration

The mountain rescue service (MRS) chose the Robodrone Kingfisher model for its versatility, easy transportability and a good price/performance ratio.

At first the required equipment included only one nose-mounted camera with 90°vertical turning possibility. Based on the test flights the installation of another aft-mounted camera pointing towards ground was requested. This enables the operator to continuously monitor the area in front and below the aircraft, which increases the search operation effectivity as well as the safety during landing. On the bottom part of the drone the MRS can easily suspend various payload types thanks to the RIS mounting system.

The drone communication is provided via a high-capacity digital transmission with the range of 3 km, additionally via mobile data network as well (the MRS can create/extend the network using mobile antennas). The flight track can be pre-programmed (especially for an avalanche slope) and modified during the mission. The drone manual control possibility is a matter of course. For this the MRS disposes of a ruggedized tablet with the appropriate software, secondary external monitor, the JETI transmitter and soon as well a special joystick enabling the manual control in adverse conditions and thick gloves.

The methodology and safety provision

The drone and its equipment (transmitter, spare batteries, etc.) are transported on the back part of an ATV so that the patrol can quickly draw it nearer to the accident area. For the winter season the MRS installed on the drone their own device containing the avalanche beacon detector (PIEPS) and the flag marker emitter. At the same time the on-board cameras are used for the visual search for survivors and for monitoring of the risk of other avalanche going to strike.

For summer search operations the MRS can attach a megaphone to the drone which can transmit the voice from a mobile phone so that e.g. the lost tourists can be instructed to keep calm or to indicate by gestures in what health condition they are. The drone can drop a rescue packet as well which facilitates the waiting for the arrival of rescuers.

The safety of drone deployment is based on the methodology described in the flight manual and on the intensive remote pilot training. They can instruct the drone to land, to recover (fly back) or to land on rescue parachute. According to the pre-set criteria some of these capabilities can be launched automatically if the pilot fails to do so. The speeds of landing or fall practically exclude any casualty or property damage.

The acquired data analysis

During the search for people trapped under an avalanche the operator is listening to the sound signal from the PIEPS avalanche beacon detector in his helmet-mounted headphones, while the drone is systematically cruising the avalanche area. After having received a signal he marks the spot by the flag marker and guides so the searchers proceeding on ground. In future an automatic signal assessment is expected. The camera picture is transmitted to the operator on the spot and to the MRS center as well.

Concluding reference

The ability to breathe under the avalanche is around 20 minutes. While the snowmobile patrol equipped with a drone can reach the location within minutes, it takes tens of minutes for the rescue team with specially trained dogs to advance in extended order across the site. The timely avalanche victim detection provided by the drone multiplies their survival chance.

The Czech mountain rescue service conducts search and rescue missions in mountainous terrain, gives first aid and provides the transport of injured, it informs the public on meteorological and snow conditions, carries out the patrol activities on mountain ridges and ski slopes and provides the avalanche monitoring. It started to use the Robodrone Kingfisher system in autumn 2015 to support all of the assigned tasks.

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Further information

The Prezi presentation is here
The Flickr photogallery is here
The Czech Television report is here
The article at iDnes is here
The article at Ozbrojeneslozky.cz is here
The Robodrone solution for search and rescue operations is here
The Robodrone solution for security and guarding is here