A UAV to assist lost hikers

I'm looking for anyone who can design a drone that helps individuals or groups of people who are lost while hiking. This system would send images to the user's phone screen of the layout surrounding them. Potential to highlight areas of man-made paths, sources of water and significant low points of elevation. The overall design would need to be compact and user friendly. The user (certified hiking guides/ solo hikers mostly) will need to complete a moderate training session in order to be certified. I have no experience with drones/technology. My email is elsasser.jeff@yahoo.com. Contact me to get a better idea of what exactly we would need in order to start the process.  

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  • One off the shelf solution I have been testing for this purpose is the Typhoon H with the CGO-ET thermal imaging camera. It works reasonably well for the purpose.I have also added Lume Cubes to the aircraft to give it a searchlight capability. There are a few others additions coming. And I built a ground station to tie all the pieces together which is far from off the shelf and required some serious systems integration efforts.

    One of the keys to this use case is that most solutions are still going to require an expert pilot and a highly trained observer watching the footage in real time. Given the hours of test footage I have, I can tell you the idea of trying to automate the finding of the hiker is still impossible still at our price point and given our weight limitations. a real FLIR camera does what it does because the sensors are supercooled, giving the sensors an extraordinary ability to image thermal differences. While good, the thermal imaging sensors that fly on drones today are a far cry from a rescue helicopter based FLIR

    I started down this path because I met a search and rescue volunteer that lived in an area that would NEVER be able to fund a rescue helicopter and he had lost a friend in the woods who ultimately died because there were not enough rescuers to find him on a night that wasn't that cold and he wasn't that far from civilization. He went down with a medical issue that needed immediate assistance but was not found until the thaw a few months later. Searchers stopped less than a mile from where his body was found. This was deemed tyo be a situation where the person really didn't need to die and just a few minutes of searching with a drone based thermal imaging camera could have meant the difference to him.

    Now on to the practical and political realities of using a drone in this situation. f someone is legitimately lost in the woods, it would not be the role of the certified hiking guide to find him. That would fall to the search and rescue team that covers that jurisdiction. Even my Typhoon based solution is not something a hiking guide with little drone experience busts out of his back pocket, throws into the air and the hiker is magically & autonomously found. I could be setup to start looking in as little as 30 minutes plus drive time. My setup includes a ground station where observers can watch as I fly in real time on HDMI panels I bring. The aircraft is tracked in real time via an antenna tracker to improve reception of telemetry and video to the ground. Depending on local conditions, Typhoon is good to close to a mile out an given it's battery range, that's the absolute furthest out I trust it. The thermal camera can also be accessed directly by anyone within WiFi range of the camera over an Android or iOS device. 

    Now on to politics. There is no way on God's green earth you want to pull up at a missing hiker scene with all this equipment, bust it out and start your own search. Most authorities don't even want to take the call from you to let them know what you've built. THEY are the professionals, I'm just a hobbyist with a drone. (The attitude I've gotten back from many)

    One local agency I know has 2 Phantoms and 2 Inspires and no desire at all to hear from anyone that thinks they can help. I have been told by many in law enforcement that what will happen is that after a few years, those drones will wear out and the passion will fade. Apparently agencies spend little on recurrent training and zero on maintenance so equipment like drones will not lats long, they'll either crash them and not have money for repairs or just use them up and not have money for repairs. But them again, if I go lost in the woods tonight there are 10 rescue helicopters within a half hour of me with the latest and greatest in FLIR technology on board. By the time a Certified Hiker with a magic drone even got the bird into the air, I'd be warm and on board the copter on the way to the hospital.

    So, I continue to believe in my use case. An aircraft like mine, with a ground station like I've built, would be invaluable to a region that did not have any access to a rescue copter, because it would legitimately be the only way to extend rescuers reach. I also have ideas on how local law enforcement and fire/rescue could use drones to extend their reach but so far even some of the best funded depts in the richest areas I know are reticent to be involved with drones. Many are outright fearful of the backlash they'll get from the public about even being pictured with a drone. I know a lot of law enforcement and fire/rescue people so I continue to work the idea at all levels and in the meantime just keep piling up all my test footage that continues to prove to me the value of the solution I am offering. I truly hope to be able to someday call the SAR volunteer who inspired me to start down this path and tell him that the drone we dreamed about helped a search team find someone.

    Until that day, I continue to fly, test and learn. What I have learned has taught me volumes about flight in low visibility conditions, flight in marginal weather, flight at very low altitude among trees, flights over water to get to a search area, the list goes on and on.  At least I have received all kinds of very good piloting lessons and legitimately have developed tactics that would benefit any drone pilot in the SAR role. Hopefully someday I'll be asked to share what I've learned in the process or will be summoned by local authorities to assist them in a search. Until that day, I'll keep doing it on my own, I have hours upon hours of R&D invested in the effort.

    Hope that helps put things into perspective, at least as far as I see the use case and what I've learned pursuing it.

  • Nick Fleming said:

    Something like this?


    Something similar, the design i had in mind would help in remote, isolated situations where finding bodies of water and man made paths are highlighted through images relayed back to the user. The possibilities would also include a distress signal sent out by the drone while it's in the air, and possible thermal imaging for a more advanced model. 

  • Something like this?


    .Ascent AeroSystems
    Ascent AeroSystems designs and manufactures coaxial UAVs that are more portable and more rugged than conventional multirotors. Our highly modular ai…
  • I think you'd better overlook surveillance drones in market

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