Daily CSR
Daily CSR

Daily CSR
Daily news about corporate social responsibility, ethics and sustainability

Drone technology has changed search and rescue operations


Drones are assisting St. Paul SAR and Cold Lake SAR in their response and recovery efforts in northern Alberta.

Drones are no longer just for nature photographers.

St. Paul Search & Rescue (SAR), a local chapter of SAR Alberta, is Alberta province's volunteer search and rescue organisation. The entirely volunteer-run organization is one of several provincial SAR teams that provide superior and dedicated service to Albertans.

“Our goal is to locate missing persons, and in the best-case scenario we recover them,” said Ken Gerlinsky, President of St. Paul SAR. “In situations where it has turned out poorly for the victim, our work assists in bringing closure to families and loved ones.”

The St. Paul SAR team collaborates closely and frequently with neighboring search-and-rescue teams, such as Cold Lake SAR, to provide coverage throughout north-eastern Alberta. Calls for assistance are frequently in the form of manpower, equipment, or both.

“Depending on the search, it can sometime morph into a call for 18 to 20 members,” said Robert Tymofichuk, Chief of Operations at St. Paul SAR. “It’s pretty grueling and tough work, but the team does it with smiles on their faces.”

Drone technology investments have transformed the way search-and-rescue teams conduct their operations in recent years.

“Previously, we would fly the drone, retrieve the video footage from the memory card, plug it into the laptop and review the footage before we could correlate the GPS locations and flight logs,” said Tymofichuk while adding,

“It was a long process, but now the advancements made with drone technology allow us to have real-time GPS information integrated into a live video feed, so search teams can effectively navigate toward objects of interest or a missing person.”
“A picture is indeed worth a thousand words.”

The imaging technology also enhances the previous method of communicating verbally via walkie-talkie, saving valuable time in times of emergency.

In late 2021, Enbridge made a $7,500 Fueling Futures donation to St. Paul SAR as part of our Safe Community First Responder Program. The financial assistance was used to purchase drone equipment for St. Paul SAR in order to improve search and rescue capabilities.

Enbridge had previously donated a rescue barge to the nearby Cold Lake Fire Department. The barge was crucial in a rescue operation this past June when an elderly resident became disoriented on one of Cold Lake's peninsulas.

“Without that barge, the mission would have been much more difficult,” said Tymofichuk.

“The barge has a fold-down ramp that allowed the team to help the person board the barge and get him to safety.”

St. Paul SAR and its surrounding SAR teams are available for deployment 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The combination of enthusiastic volunteers and leaders who pioneer the investment in equipment upgrades, such as drones, prepares the teams for almost any emergency that may arise.

“The technological advancements have really changed our operations and outcomes for families.”