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UAS technology can improve SAR operations and boost survival rates

Southeast Asia News
18 Feb 2022, 10 GMT+10

According to the database of the Asian Disaster Reduction Center (ADRC), all the countries located in the South East Asian region show extreme vulnerability to natural disasters. The topography and the location of these countries play a huge role in the magnitude and severity of any disaster that happens to befall them. The most common ones include floods, landslides and earthquakes all fata if not contained or handled with utmost care.

Floods account for 60 per cent of disasters causing damages worth at least 25 per cent of the countrys GDP if ADRC reports are to go by. Earthquakes and tsunamis caused by volcanic activity are another major hazard. The recent 7.3 magnitude earthquake that struck Eastern Indonesia on December 14, 2021, should serve as a wakeup call. This is not the first time that the South East Asian nation has had to deal with such incidents. Tsunamis and earthquakes are very common, the worst being the 2004 tsunami that devastated the whole region and reached as far as India.

The South East Asian region, in particular, is vulnerable to earthquakes due to its location in an area of great volcanic activity. Earthquakes caused by volcanic activity are very dangerous because they are usually accompanied by subsequent tsunamis. This results in disasters of the highest magnitude, shutting down infrastructure, triggering secondary landslides and blackouts. Survivors get cut off from emergency services, with no way to reach them nor provide them with vital supplies like water and med kits.

The earthquake of December 14, 2021, is a case in point. Although no loss of life or major damages were reported, it highlights the vulnerability of the island nation. Such incidents serve as a strong reminder to invest in effective and technologically advanced emergency services to prepare for any eventuality. The potential of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs) in emergency services must be acknowledged to unlock its vast capabilities. Wynyard Group, Kespry and Draganfly Innovations are some of the leading companies developing advanced UASs that are versatile and exhibit robust flight characteristics.

Disasters like earthquakes present emergency services and first responders with challenges that require an out-of-the-box thinking to overcome. Aftershocks and secondary events may trigger other cataclysmic events which only adds to the problems. Rescue teams are left with no choice but to proceed cautiously through the rubble, looking for survivors on the go. This is a time consuming process that diminishes the chances of survival for trapped and injured victims.

Statistics indicate that 90 per cent of survivors located within 30 minutes of the incident live. Increase the time frame to 24 hours, and the survival rate drops to 81 per cent. After five days, the numbers hit single digits 7 per cent. This highlights the importance of fast and efficient search and rescue (SAR) operations when responding to disasters.

Employing UASs equipped with monitoring and thermal cameras can solve this problem. In the aftermath of earthquakes, UASs can be deployed to assess structural damage and locate collapsed buildings and tunnels that could impede rescue efforts. Modern technology can enhance this capability and transform UASs into indispensable tools for emergency services.

Outfitted with advanced monitoring systems like thermal and IR imaging cameras, UASs like the ones currently on offer by Wynyard Group can assist rescue teams in locating survivors. Ongoing experiments regarding the utilization of cell phones to locate trapped survivors have produced positive results. Once perfected, these systems can significantly boost survival rates.

Having said that, the platform for mounting these devices plays an important role. The UAS must have pleasant flight characteristics and a reliable power plant. For example, Wynyard Groups Pelican can be the perfect model for this purpose. It is a fuel-based rotary platform powered by a 4-stroke single engine that churns out 7kW and propels it up to 120 km/h. It is highly modular in design and can accommodate a wide variety of sensors on-board. Its maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 45 kg makes it a versatile aerial platform that can be tasked with multiple missions.

Mission tasking is another key factor that dictates how a UAS is equipped. UASs like the Pelican that possess superior capabilities when it comes to factors like payload, range and flight time, often have a clear advantage over other platforms. The Pelican has a maximum payload weight of 15 kg, which includes fuel, and a range of 350 km at a cruising speed of 60 km/hr. Flight time lasts anywhere up to 5 hours, depending on the payload. Add the hover capability and you have the perfect platform for SAR services.

Since the advent of UAS technology, countries have been experimenting with ways to seamlessly integrate these autonomous vehicles to their emergency services. South East Asian countries, in particular, are the perfect proving grounds for such technology. Organizations like the Asian Disaster Reduction Center (ADRC) are doing a commendable job in monitoring and responding to any disasters in the area. ADRC maintains a record of natural disasters in the region and devises plans and procedures to deal with future hazards as and when they happen.

It also has on record the most likely vulnerabilities of each country in the region. For example, Malaysia is recorded as being more susceptible to floods, landslides and haze and the work being done to tackle them. Indonesia is shown to have similar issues like Malaysia but with further additions like tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanoes. Such information is very handy in developing emergency plans and containment measures when things go wrong. Leveraging UAS technology will give these countries the upper hand when dealing with future events.

Wynyard Group, Kespry and other like-minded companies are constantly improving their designs. Taking up these companies on their offers is a win-win situation for all stakeholders. Disasters can strike anytime, anywhere, without the slightest warning. Having these technologies on hand will permit faster response times and improve survival chances. The undeniable truth staring at us in the face today is that the future of emergency services lies with UAS technology.

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