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:

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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.)






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  • 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? 

  • 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.

  • Moderator

    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.

  • Moderator

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

  • 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. 

  • 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.

  • Gary. I think I will purchase this book, and when finished, pass it off to a few EM friends to peruse. It looks interesting.
  • Thank you, Gary!  I just ordered the book.  Exactly the type of thing we're looking for.  

  • Moderator

    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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