YEAR 1 (2023)
Beginning in 2023, NEMCo CERT began developing a drone program for use in urban search and rescue. In the future, drones could also be used for aerial overviews of damaged areas, infrastructure inspection and building assessment evaluations. Incorporating drones not only reduces the risk to first responders and volunteer personnel, it provides real time data and video documentation to assess where personnel and resources should be focused.
Participation in the program is as either a pilot or a specialist.
Pilots must pass the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Part 107 exam and hold a valid UAS Remote Pilot Certificate.
Ground, air, data and flight specialists receive between 6 and 18 hours of training based on the responsibilities and tasks of the individual position. NEMCo currently has 12 Certified Specialists at various levels and another 11 members in various stages of training.
The drone team trains in accordance with FAA rules and regulations for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) (14 CFR Part 107) for UAS under 55 pounds.
Team members must be credentialed NEMCo volunteers.
The first field demonstration of the drone for urban search and rescue was on Sept. 30, as part of the State of Washington!s Fifth Saturday Drill. Setup was at Horizon View Park and the drone team!s mission was to locate target areas in the surrounding woods. The drone can stay in the air for about 30 minutes, fly up to 400 feet over the scene (FAA maximum allowable), and carries an in-board camera (48 Megapixels) to search, and record images of the environment. When a target location or object is identified, the drone team radios the ground CERT field teams with the GPS location for further investigation. All operations were successfully performed smoothly and expeditiously.
Based on this initial success, NEMCo plans to train additional specialists and to conduct further field flights to demonstrate how drones can be a functional part of the NEMCo program.
Ground Operation Team Preparing for Landing
Story and Photo by G. Siani, Oct. 2023