How can drones help with search and rescue?: An overview

Machines for the most part have been the antagonist in popular media. Not only in movies, but also in mass media, one can see drones being used in war and destruction. But do they possess the capacity for ‘immoral’ actions or destruction outside of human programming and use? Perhaps not. In this post, we shall set the negativity aside and see how drones can be used for the good. More specifically, how can drones help with search and rescue?

Monitoring disasters and catastrophe

drones help with search and rescue: hurricane

Drones have been at use for monitoring disasters like landslides, volcanoes, tsunami, hurricanes and man-made catastrophes like nuclear accidents and plane crashes for over a decade now.

With increase in technological capabilities today, the potential for this is only going to be on the rise.

Regular monitoring of disaster prone areas is obviously a necessary ordeal. Aerial mapping of a particular topography can help identify areas that are prone to disasters.

New developments in remote sensing technology have opened up new doors to identify potential disasters early. Drones have also been sent into hurricanes to study its behavior.

Being not only easily transportable and deploy-able, drones are perfect for any kind of monitoring endeavor because of their capacity for producing high resolution images. While this isn’t exactly ‘search and rescue’, remember – prevention is better than cure!

Locating lost victims

drones help with search and rescue : lost victims

Drones can fly and so it can see exponentially more. With missing victims (both disaster and terrorism survivors), immediate detection is of paramount significance.

Manned aerial vehicles may not always be available in such emergency scenarios and this is usually where drones come into play, not to mention the savings in time and cost of deployment.

These flying machines can also traverse otherwise inaccessible areas and obtain critical information about missing persons via GPS tracking and assist the search and rescue team in establishing contact with the victim sooner.

This is especially useful in harsh terrain and/or during night times and unforgiving weather conditions.

Recently, drone models are also developed to ‘sniff out’ and locate victims’ phones in order to hone in on their location.

Inspection and tracking

drones help with search and rescue: inspection

Disaster and accident scene inspection and tracking is another use for drones in search and rescue. From rail to fire scenes, drones can be quickly and cheaply to perform a thorough inspection where it would be otherwise expensive, dangerous or both.

Structural integrity inspection after a disaster or catastrophic accidents comes with plenty of risks. Human teams may have to enter collapsible or hard to access buildings or structures.

Drones are being widely used today to mitigate this risk due to their capacity for inspecting integrity even in hard to access indoors.

For wildfire tracking and extinguishing drones provide various capabilities and advantages. Regular, manned aircrafts must operate at low altitudes which not only brings about a significant risk but also brings about a decrease in efficiency due to extreme environments such as high temperatures and winds which usually means low visibility.

In the arena of inspection and tracking, the possibilities are limitless. From high rise building fire to nuclear leakage or explosions, the list is wide.


Relief and emergency medical operations

drones help with search and rescue : medical

In the aftermath of a disaster or a catastrophe, drones offer numerous advantages in providing relief operations for survivors. From delivering water, food and other tools to mapping infrastructure risk that requires immediate rectification, drones can do them all.

Medical applications like use in emergency operations like in the case of a heart attack is another potential application. Drones can not only be used provide the necessary first aid, but can also be used as a communication bridge to the people near the victim to medical professionals.

Here is an interesting and viral video from TU deft:



As you can see, the potential for the use of drone technology in search and rescue alone trumps any negative connotations given to it by mass media. It is our responsibility to use it wisely.

With further advancements in future, we are only going to discover further uses! Building a rope bridge, for example.

Hope you enjoyed this post. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, drop one or two below!