A New Zealand volunteer coastguard is using new, purpose-built unmanned drones to help in its search and rescue operations.
The drones, fitted with cameras and other technology, provide an aerial vantage point for the Christchurch coastguard and can be deployed faster than traditional means, such as a plane or boat.
Coastguard member Gordon McKay told Al Jazeera that the unmanned drones were much safer for his team.
“At the moment, we send our crews into potentially harm’s way quite regularly and if we can actually eliminate the risk of four crew members up in the sky doing a search by sending a UAV up that’s actually gold in my book.”
The coastguard has already used a drone to search for a person lost in the mountains last year. Controlling them is as simple as steering from a phone or tablet.
“They’ll get to their search area, they’ll stop the boat, throw one of these things off the back and they can either send it off in the direction they feel they need to investigate,” Paul Hartley, from Global Aerial Platforms, which is developing the drones with the coastguard, told Al Jazeera.
Global Aerial Platforms is also working with the Red Cross and says searching for victims in disaster zones is a potential use.
The small models will cost around $5,000. Larger drones are also being developed that will be able to stay in the air for up to 10 hours and carry rescue equipment.