K2 Unmanned joined DroneOn Long Beach, a local Meetup group, in their FlyOver Long Beach event this morning. Headed up by Edwin Shackeroff, DroneOn Long Beach is a group where “drone enthusiasts of all levels gather to fly, learn, and have fun” while exploring drone capabilities with other interested folks. It’s a local group on meetup.com with already over a hundred members.

Drone Search Game

Today’s FlyOver Long Beach event was a Drone Search Game attended by a diverse group of people who were split into four different groups. Together, each group searched for a number of objects in unknown locations while communicating to a central incident commander (IC) through FRS radios. Each object was a helipad that simulated a point of interest—fire, missing person, broken gas line, etc. The idea of the game was to simulate post earthquake response efforts carried out by individuals who were previously strangers and also to test the usefulness of drone teams in post disaster search efforts.

Most people understand that UAVs in emergency response and search and rescue efforts can be an indispensable resource. Despite this being obvious, many first responder departments and community response teams are slow to adopt drones and implement UAS programs. Much of this has to do with the time that it takes for precedence to be set and these organizations waiting for a rulebook–so to speak–to be handed down.

Edwin Shackeroff understands that he cannot just wait. He is pushing forward to develop a protocol for emergency response groups to implement so that they can enlist local pilots in response efforts. Shackeroff is trying to get this adopted by the Long Beach CERT group, where the practice can hopefully proliferate to other CERT and emergency response groups. K2 was happy to be a part of that today.

Implications of Today’s Exercise

Today’s search game was a testbed for how a group of pilots without SAR training can come together, get a quick lesson in the purpose of the search efforts and in radio communication procedures, in order to form an effective search group. In a real SAR mission, something similar happened in search for Blaze Bernstein, where pilots were given a gridded search map and independently searched an assigned area. Search efforts for Blaze Bernstein and today’s drone search game are both proof of concept that enlisting local pilots can have positive results.

If anyone is interested in learning more about becoming a certified drone pilot so they’ll be able to help future efforts, join K2 for its upcoming Drone Pilot Boot Camp being held next weekend, February 24th.

Drone on!