Predict, Search and Rescue with Geospatial Information Systems – STEM Career Series

She Maps Team
19 Oct 2021

Disaster Prevention and rescue operations have come a long way since their inception. Instead of dispatching professionals out to the field to painstakingly investigate an area, we now have handy technologies such as drones to perform the task more effectively. Certain treacherous terrains such as forests or cliffs pose serious challenges for rescuers for whom time is of utmost priority. Often it puts them at risk as well. Uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAV’s) can significantly help to mitigate such risks, and often lead to a reduction in the cost of the operation as well. Although they come with their own challenges, drones, combined with GIS systems, enable fast and efficient rescue operations.

Predictive Mitigation

The concept of predictive mitigation refers to an attempt to predict a natural disaster and take action to reduce its effects to the community. Avalanches are a common threat in the Northwest Territories of Canada and forecasting their occurrences can prevent extensive damage to property as well as saving lives. Researchers use GIS to develop models with the aid of statistical data, probability models as well as data from cameras on drones to map terrains on which avalanches are likely to occur. Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale (ATES) is specifically developed to accurately map this terrain. However, in a catastrophic event, it is impossible for an organisation to jump between different sources of data as they try to predict what event may occur in the next few hours. GIS frameworks allow data to be centralised.

Search and Rescue

In search and rescue missions, high tech camera imaging systems are used as they can detect the slightest thermal movement even in the remotest of the locations, regardless of the vegetation thickness. More than that, drones act as a pair of eyes, allowing firefighters to scan areas with dense smoke which may be too dangerous for them to go into themselves. Real time data obtained from monitoring devices such as drones is then overlayed on the modelled terrain, providing analysts an accurate picture of the scene. Once the ‘search’ operation is successful, the next step is to rescue the person. By obtaining aerial views of remote areas, along with the real time data provided by GIS systems, operators can make quick decisions and deploy appropriate resources to the exact location of the person to be rescued. The use of GIS combined with drones enables a swift system to be utilised to facilitate relief efforts from emergency teams and the dispatching of rescuers to a location.

drone in uk deployed maritime search and rescue
Drone in UK deployed for maritime search and rescue

During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in India in 2020, a start-up successfully launched drones in the state of Gujarat to monitor areas of high density where social distancing could not be practiced. The authorities then sent teams to enforce social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus in those areas. Read more about it here!

gujarat authorities monitoring social distancing compliance
Gujarat authorities monitoring social distancing compliance

Challenges with Drones

There is no doubt that drones provide excellent advantage in both predictive mitigation of natural disasters and search/rescue operations. However, this technology comes with its challenges and limitations as well. One of the limitations is the range of wireless communications, especially in remote locations. Extensive use of 5G networks could help with the communication gaps experienced by organisations.

Other issues associated with drones is the sound produced as well as privacy concerns. Although these are not significant in the case of remote treacherous areas, they could be major concerns in a densely populated area where privacy would likely be of utmost importance to residents (for example in the case of Gujarat’s drone deployment).

Careers in the industry

The drone industry is a fast-growing industry, and it offers a wide range of career opportunities. Some of the GIS career opportunities in this industry are listed below:

Drone Operator: This role involves managing Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) in accordance with required standard operations. Preparing flight safety assessments, risk assessments and performance assessments are key aspects of this role. 

Drone Surveillance Data Analyst: The duties of this role include supporting the Drone Surveillance Program Team Leader and Integrated Airspace Program Manager with the planning and execution of various projects. Data analysis and maintaining data integrity are important tasks of this role. 

Data ScientistThis role involves managing geospatial displays and topology tools using scripting languages. GIS practices and metadata standards are to be practiced throughout the role.

Mechanical Engineer: Some of the important duties of this role include overseeing the mechanical design and optimisation of the platform and mechanical sub-systems. 3D CAD modelling of components and assemblies to be used in the uncrewed aerial vehicles is expected to be done collaboratively in teams. Developing test and failure plans through experimentation is an important aspect of this role. 

About She Maps.

She Maps is Australia’s leading expert in drone and geospatial education. 

She Maps assist schools with the purchasing of drones, school-industry created drone and geospatial teaching resources and highly supportive teacher professional development.

  • FREE eBook – How to start a drone program at your school – Teachers Guide – Download Now
  • Find out more about our programs
  • Take our programs for a spin – purchase a program
  • Become a She Maps Member for just $240/year – More information
  • Free STEM Education Guide – Understanding and Implementing  STEM Programs in your classroom – Read now 
You’re in Safe Hands!
She Maps is a CASA approved commercial operator to fly microdrones indoors with students and teachers. CASA holds commercial operators, to a higher standard than recreational users and educators. This means that She Maps has been assessed by CASA as having rigorous training and risk mitigation procedures in place.

Ready to buy drones for your school? We are an authorised DJI reseller in Australia

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