Drones for Search and Rescue in the Yukon

Drones for Search and Rescue in the Yukon

Recently I started working as an rural ambulance volunteer for the Yukon EMS, generally stationed in Watson Lake, Yukon, Canada.  Here the terrain is varied and vast and we have some calls where driving two hours at freeway speeds is necessary to arrive at the scene.

yukon road

About half of the calls we get relate to incidents in town – intoxicated people falling over, boating accidents, etc.  The other half typically relates to motor vehicle accidents (MVAs) on the highway which serves as the main conduit from continental North America to Alaska and carries plenty tourists and travelers every summer.

Most people drive safely, but the excitement of “going to Alaska” and the lengthy hours of daylight (weird to most people) can contribute to fatigue and accidents on the highway.  When this happens it is often on remote stretches far from towns and the cars (or buses, or trucks) end up in the ditch beside the highway along with their patients.  Sometimes a search is required to find all the patients.

A smaller organization such as Yukon EMS has its advantages to work for, such as knowing your managers and directors by first name, and the knowledge that in the event of a true emergency out in the wilderness, nobody sitting at a desk will judge the rescuers on scene for using every tool at their disposal in the best interest of patient safety.  I carry my Sentry UAV in my personal response pack knowing that if I was faced with a multiple-casualty incident requiring a search in the woods, and the UAV was the best option, I’d use it.  The one-handed radio controller gives me confidence that I can use my own eyes and legs to search on the ground while the UAV hovers above looking at the scene from the air.  I can then look at the live-action screen from time to time and pilot the UAV without compromising my ability to search on foot.

Wrist dvr white 2

With limited personnel in a remote environment the rescuer has to make the most of the resources at hand, and that means the use of the UAV cannot detract from, but must complement, the use of the human body and mind.  The Sentry has been designed from the start to cooperate in a search without stealing away the pilot’s attention so that he or she can still take part in the ground search.