Cheap Search and Rescue UAV - any recommendations?

I am looking for a cheap uav drone for search and rescue for our local NSRI (National Sea Rescue Institute) that would be capable of performing both day and night searches for people in the ocean, so would need to be capable of staying airborne for at least an hour or two, have a thermal, infra-red or similar camera, send live footage to iPad or similar device and preferably some good software that will alert the user to possible persons in the water or in mountains with co-ordinates. Our guys are seriously limited in search and rescue to clear daylight conditions. Do you have something like this that is not prohibitively expensive? I am sure that if we manage to save one life here in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa, all of the remaining NSRI bases throughout South Africa (and elsewhere) will be interested in purchasing their own too. I will be glad to some PR for the drone whenever there is a good result. 

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  • I do urban SAR with a Hexcopter, dual camera, no IR (in future?) You won't come close to those loiter times with any rotary wing currently on the market. Battery life currently is measured in minute, not hours. 

    I typically will loiter long enough for a good read of the GPS coordinates, then pass that to the ground personnel & RTB for a fresh battery. Is there a reason to loiter over position for that long? You may do it with a fixed wing, not cheaply though

  • The best thing currently available that I managed to find is the following from SteadiDrone in South Africa, which costs about US$7,600 without the cameras (SteadiDrone X8 Wing):

    The SteadiDrone X8 Wing is a fully ready to fly long range multi-purpose fixed wing UAV for a wide range of aerial applications. From aerial photography and video to FPV flying, search and rescue, sea rescue, mining, aerial surveillance, security, shark spotting, anti poaching, wild life, night time flights, thermal infrared security, first response and countless other uses, the X8 Wing offers our clients an all in one UAV system. The X8 Wing features removable wings for easy transport, full GPS guidance navigation system, auto take off and many other advanced features. This RTF kit comes fully tested and ready to fly with the following

    Key Features

    · ArduPilot APM 2.5 Flight Control System + Full advanced GPS system, unlimited
    waypoint navigation, return to home, auto land fail-safes, GPS hold, ALT hold etc

    · Large fuselage area for cameras or other equipment

    · 800Kv T-Motor 3520 brushless motor

    · 80A ESC Motor controller

    · 12” Foldable Prop

    · Hi-Tec Aurora 9 Flight control radio system with touchscreen

    · Long range RC System up to 25km

    · Complete ground control station, laptop + pelican carry case

    · 433mhz long range wireless telemetry link

    · 2 x 5200mah 4S Batteries

    · AC/DC Battery charger + Battery checker alarm

    · Full wireless video downlink system with video LCD goggles

    · Padded carry bag / All accessories, software & manuals

    Cameras - compact digitals, FLIR Tau, Ion Air, GoPro HD etc
    Payload - ideal 200g to 1000g / max 2kg (over and above drone weight)
    Speed - 40 up to 160km/h (depends on payload) / Range - up to 25km
    Dimensions - diameter 2100mm / weight 3.1kg (no battery)

  • If you want to take baby steps, see this build:

    http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1478852

  • a better application at least i think would be a ground station that will do the same thing with opencv and thermal camrea that backup a high res regular camera that scan the nearest cost

  • Unfortunately Gary is correct. For what you described your looking at a Raven and I would say that $100k is a little light.  .  However my opinion is that the technology is still a bit far out there for the inexpensive disposable drone.  

  • Moderator

    Here's the thing, would you want to hear the term cheap if you needed rescuing. For your requirements I think you are looking at the thick end of $100,000 USD, the FLIR camera will be 5k at least. After Mangaung goodness knows what import duties might look like here ;-)

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