CERT Drones

The purpose of this group is to work on applying drone technology to the challenges faced by Community Emergency Response Teams and other citizen disaster response organizations.  

A key objective is identifying a best-practice system that can perform rapid surveillance of neighborhoods and get information back to a CERT CP (Command Post).

To learn more about CERT:

Members: 59
Latest Activity: Oct 27, 2017


There has been a 7.6 earthquake on a major nearby fault. You are a citizen volunteer and the Operations Chief for a Community Emergency Response Team. You are the first line of response for injured citizens because your fire district staffs 1 fireman for every 6000 citizens on any given day.

You have 40 to 60 other CERTS at your disposal who can perform basic search & rescue, first aid, and victim transport.

Your job is to put your teams in the thick of the victims as quickly as possible so that they can save lives.

Your Area of responsibility has the following characteristics:
- 11,000 people within it
- 4,700 dwellings: mostly single residences but also apartments
- 2.5 square miles: about 2.5 miles from north to south and averaging 1 mile wide
- hilly terrain
- some trees but not heavily wooded
- many streets, cul de sacs

The first hour after the earthquake is called "the golden hour." If someone has been seriously injured, their chances of survival drop precipitously after 60 minutes.

Your teams have assigned, prioritized routes they follow upon activation based upon pre-analysis of population density and seismology maps. HOWEVER, it is impossible to predict where victims will be.

The default solution to find victims quickly is a windshield survey by people slowly driving the Area and attempting to get radio messages back to the Command Post. (Radio can be unreliable because of limited channels, chaotic emergency traffic, and terrain.)

Roads may be blocked by down trees or power lines.

You are wondering if drones could be used to locate victimes and streets with substantial damage more rapidly or using fewer people than windshield surveys. 

***If you come up with a better solution, you save lives.***

Assume Internet and cell service are not available. However, your organization has power generators, gasoline, storage areas, and includes many licensed ham operators.

Assume you can raise funds amongst neighbors and nearby businesses.

Under SCENARIO A: Assume that citizenry are totally passive and you have to find them.

Under SCENARIO B: Assume citizens have been trained on a marker system by which they place red, yellow, or green blocks/flags/lights in front of their houses visible from the air and street. (Of course absent or injured citizens would not signal.)






Discussion Forum

How to write Conceptual Design ?

Started by Osman Kültür Mar 20, 2016. 0 Replies

Hello All,I have to write a conceptual design report inorder to get the fund to make my drone project.  But I have no idea how to write conceptual design. In the questions that I am reuired to…Continue


Started by Steve Apr 21, 2014. 0 Replies

Meant to post this, not send it as a PM, apologiesHi all, I stumbled across this group today by accident, and figured I should post what I have been working on. For about the past year I have been…Continue

Gas Sensors

Started by David Anders Nov 7, 2013. 0 Replies

Guys,Has anyone found a good, reliable place that deals with portable gas sensors with remote capability?Cheers,David.Continue

Complexity vs. Simplicity

Started by HeliStorm Jun 1, 2013. 0 Replies

I have been thinking quite a bit recently about the use of UAS in disaster response, and most particularly who may use this technology. Assuming for the moment we will have volunteers flying this…Continue

Comment Wall


You need to be a member of CERT Drones to add comments!

Comment by Jeff Starr on January 13, 2014 at 11:38pm

Thisvideo causes me to think the package for this scenario might be:

- RVJet

- APM 2.5

- Mission Planner Software

I wonder if we could get citizens in our CERT Area to agree to placing colored cones outside their homes to indicate Immediate / Delayed / OK status? 

Comment by Jeff Starr on June 8, 2013 at 5:32pm
Comment by Jeff Starr on June 8, 2013 at 12:02pm

I just created an online google spreadsheet that anyone with the link, below, can access.

The purpose is to consider different configurations and come up with a best practice system to accomplish the mission above.

If you click in, you'll see the grid is Options x Systems/Metrics/overall pros and cons.  I'd invite anyone with expertise to lay out the sub-systems that should be down the left hand side.  Obviously we're not shooting for every screw in the bill of materials.

Hopefully it is a way to share alternatives that people are working on in an organized fashion.

Comment by David Anders on April 11, 2013 at 9:39pm

Jeff, i'm sure there would be things in that book that would be useful to non US people.  I've been working on something like this for a little while - mainly with IR to spot bodies, some face detection and also numberplate recognition.  Still not at a state where I can say i'm happy with it, but would love to know more about what's in the book.

Comment by Gary Mortimer on April 11, 2013 at 11:41am

Glad to be of assistance Jeff. Its an exciting time!

Comment by Jeff Starr on April 11, 2013 at 9:50am

Gary, I just read Gene's bio at the back of this book.  He just emailed me the pdf of his book.  Looks like you've teleported us to the center of the SAR/UAV world.  Thank you. 

Comment by Jeff Starr on April 11, 2013 at 8:48am

Helistorm: Just read your message, below.  *Great* to have you.  Our scenario, above, is earthquake-centric, motivated by the location of our CERT organization in Northern California, but hopefully it maps to other CERT missions like hurricane, flooding.

Comment by HeliStorm on April 11, 2013 at 8:43am
Gary. I think I will purchase this book, and when finished, pass it off to a few EM friends to peruse. It looks interesting.
Comment by Jeff Starr on April 11, 2013 at 8:18am

Thank you, Gary!  I just ordered the book.  Exactly the type of thing we're looking for.  

Comment by Gary Mortimer on April 11, 2013 at 12:07am

sUAS News podcast co host and contributer Gene Robinson probably has the most civilian experience of this task in the USA. He is also knows the regulatory issues. His book is being used in a couple of Universities I believe now.

There are solutions for detecting motionless breathing subjects that have been flown under multirotors


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