I have always been fascinated with exploring technology and finding ways to use it to solve challenges. This passion has pretty much defined my career and personal life.
Since founding Wirehive with James five years ago I've watched his passion for Search and Rescue growing. Our interests converged when Surrey Search & Rescue (SurSAR) started exploring the use of drones.
Having played with model aircraft and drones from a young age, the opportunity appealed to my inner-child as well as the parent side of my life. It really hit home how important SAR was as an organisation when I found out the team had been deployed to find a missing child. Being a parent myself I naturally imagined what would happen if my own daughter went missing and that's when I decided to get involved.
Pioneering in Surrey
That was just over 12 months ago and since then I've focused my efforts on creating, building and training the first Search & Rescue drone team in the UK. Drones, or Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), have now become a common sight on deployments in Surrey alongside our other specialist sections like, search dogs and water rescue boat teams.
The drones allow a much wider area to be covered during a Search and Rescue operation and enable accurate deployment of on-the-ground resources. By using a mixture of real-time downlink HD cameras for daytime searches as well as thermal imaging cameras at night the drones can help locate a missing person or at least isolate the correct area to focus the search.
Drone technology is advancing rapidly and using equipment and training that is compatible with a charity budget is challenging - but we've done it. Our current area for exploration is expanding our new capability to assist Surrey Fire & Rescue Service with aerial video support during heathland fires, large incidents and dangerous conditions.
On the back of introducing drone capability within SurSAR I have been invited to be the National Lead on RPAS for Lowland Rescue, the organisation setting the standards for non-mountainous Search & Rescue in the UK. My next challenge in SAR is rolling out standards for other SAR teams to build their own RPAS teams as well as exploring emerging drone technology and its applicability. I am collaborating with UAVAir a leading UK training company, to build a qualification to fit this need. Last weekend Wirehive played host to the first intake of pilots on a specially developed CAA accredited qualification targeted at Search & Rescue. We believe this course is the first of its kind worldwide.
In addition to the personal satisfaction I got working with innovative and useful technology to support a valuable local voluntary service, I was particularly gratified by the support from the wider Wirehive team. This included building prototype drone platforms, software development, even simulating missing people in training exercises. This combined interest in RPAS has been maintained in the form of the Wirehive Drone Club. Sharing this with my colleagues and being able to encourage technical development for good within the business is a source of enormous pride.
If you want to know more about how we’re using RPAS in SurSAR or fancy challenging the Wirehive team to a drone race get in touch!