SES Quorn drone technology

TECHNOLOGY: John Simpson flying his drone at the SES Quorn Unit base. The Unit is waiting on approval to use the technology for search and rescue missions.

TECHNOLOGY: John Simpson flying his drone at the SES Quorn Unit base. The Unit is waiting on approval to use the technology for search and rescue missions.

THE STATE Emergency Service (SES) Quorn Unit is looking to enhance its search and rescue response through the use of drone technology. 

The Quorn IGA donated $1000 to the SES Quorn Unit as part of the Community Chest program, providing the volunteers with the necessary funds to purchase two drones.

SES Quorn Unit Manager John Simpson said the SES has to wait for government approval before purchasing the drones.

“With a drone, we can basically search at least a 100-acre area in about 20 minutes,” Mr Simpson said.

“On foot with five people that will take a few hours to do and you still can’t see as well on ground level because you’re looking through trees and bushes.”

With a drone, we can basically search at least a 100-acre area in about 20 minutes. - SES Quorn Unit Manager John Simpson

The technology would not only significantly shorten search periods, but Mr Simpson believes the technology will also improve the health and safety of volunteers.

“When you have days that are 40-odd degrees and you don’t want to put all your volunteers out walking for hours trying to find somebody, we can save all that foot power for the rescue itself and get the search done with the drone,” he said.

“They’re all volunteers and we don’t want them to get hurt trying to rescue someone else.”

Drone technology will enable the Quorn Unit to film areas from different angles, feeding back live images and recording all footage with GPS references provided.

After purchasing his own drone to run through a series of rescue-related tests, Mr Simpson described the use of the technology as an “absolute no-brainer.”

“They’ve been using these in Europe for a while now and they’re having magic success rates, with some groups rescuing people in one third of the time,” he said.

“Local police are getting behind it as well. It’s good for them because they might not have to get the police helicopter out, which then saves them thousands of dollars.”

SES were initially unable to look into the technology due to Civil Aviation Safety Authority’s (CASA) rules, with commercial usage of drones requiring a pilot license. 

These rules applied to the SES despite being a non-profit organisation, until CASA changed their stance on September 29, 2016, allowing commercial flight for drones weighing less than two kilograms.

The DJI-brand drones that the SES plan to purchase weigh just 1.3 kgs, opening the door for potential usage.

Residents wishing to volunteer for the SES Quorn Unit can contact Mr Simpson at John.Simpson@sasesvolunteer.org.au.

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