Experts in unmanned aerial vehicles from around the world gathered in Newcastle to weigh in on a debate surrounding the future of drone technologies in search and rescue missions.
The conference, which took place at Newcastle University on Monday 11 December, welcomed representatives from New Zealand and the United States, as well as from a wide range of emergency responder services including mountain rescue, police, fire and rescue, RAF and coastguard.
The event, which was led by Newcastle University Business School and Northumberland-based The Centre for Search Research, was organised to reflect on current thinking and experiences of drone technology, harness insights from industry professionals and establish how drones can be integrated effectively into complex, multi-agency, search and rescue operations.
Professor Stephen Hughes, of Newcastle University Business School, explained: “This conference builds on findings from Exercise Northumberland, a research project undertaken earlier this year to compare the effectiveness of ground and air assets, including drones, in a search environment.
“Our report from Exercise Northumberland received a lot of international attention and we’ve built on this to bring together experts from around the world to help us draft a roadmap for future research into the use of drones in search and rescue. This will be taken forward by The Centre for Search Research and Newcastle University.
“Major search and rescue operations which take place during an earthquake or missing person situations, for example, require a large number of agencies to work together in complex circumstances and under tight time constraints. We’re delighted that some of the world’s leading search specialists are joining us to share their experiences in drone use and help us to improve search operations and save more lives.”
The two-day conference featured a keynote speech from Philip Solaris, from X-Craft Enterprises in New Zealand, who outlined how drones were used by emergency responders after Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu, in 2015.
Ollie Dismore, director of operations for the National Police Air Service, discussed the ethics and use of drones in policing while Hugh Dougher, former regional chief ranger for the US National Park Service, provided an American perspective on drone use in search and rescue.