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Drones Dispatched to Nepal to Search for Survivors

April 28, 2015  - By

Aeryon Labs, GlobalMedic and Monadrone are working together to deploy three unmanned aerial systems (UAS) in Nepal to help locate earthquake survivors. The drones are outfitted with thermal cameras and the Aeryon HDZoom30 camera, which has an extended zoom, to look at targets from more than 1,000 feet away. 

On Saturday, April 25, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal — the largest quake in 81 years in the region. More than 4,000 people have died, with death tolls expected to rise as the rubble is cleared.

In response, Aeryon Labs deployed three of its sUAS (small UAS) and a qualified Aeryon pilot to the affected region. Aeryon is collaborating with partners GlobalMedic and Monadrone to provide aerial support to international disaster relief teams on the ground.

The Global Medic UAV team responded immediately to the crisis in Nepal. “sUAS provide us the unmatched capability to get onsite and into the air immediately to start determining how and where to provide support to the people,” said Rahul Singh, executive director of GlobalMedic.

Damage to, or the complete loss of, fundamental infrastructure such as airstrips and refueling facilities can make manned aircraft operations in disaster relief scenarios very challenging. Sending rescue workers into damaged structures, or rubble piles, to search for survivors also puts them in harm’s way. sUAS enable ground-based rescue teams to collect critical visual intelligence and deploy rescue resources quickly, carefully and exactly where they are most needed, the companies said.

The Aeryon HDZoom30 is a fully-integrated, ruggedized, high performance electro-optical camera payload for UAS.

The Aeryon HDZoom30 is a fully-integrated, ruggedized, high performance electro-optical camera payload for UAS.

The Aeryon sUAS being sent to Nepal are equipped with thermal cameras to help locate survivors by detecting body heat, as well as the companies newest imaging payload, the Aeryon HDZoom30, which can be used at extended distances to zoom in to see a target with clarity and detail. For example, operators are able to recognize a face from more than 1,000 feet (300 meters) away. The team will also undertake aerial mapping of the affected areas, building 2D and 3D maps, so that further response efforts can be planned.

“At Monadrone, we see sUAS as mission-critical tools that not only support day-to-day military, police and fire department needs, but can also play a vital role when disaster strikes,” said Robin Morris, director at Monadrone, Monaco. “The images the Aeryon sUAS will capture will enable the creation of up-to-date maps required to aid the disaster relief in Nepal.”

Aeryon sUAS were also deployed in the aftermath of the August 2014 landslide that devastated the region along the banks of the Sunkoshi River in northern Nepal. Despite the high altitude of Nepal, which is challenging for many aircraft, and the rugged terrain, Aeryon sUAS proved effective and more than up to the task.

“UAS are uniquely able to provide immediate support for disaster relief, like the earthquake in Nepal, helping rescue teams search more effectively, efficiently and safely,” Dave Kroetsch, president and CEO of Aeryon Labs, told AUVSI News. “It’s an honor to see the technology you create make such a difference. We are privileged to be able assist the aid workers who are helping the people of Nepal.”

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About the Author: Tracy Cozzens

Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.