The potential use of unmanned aircraft systems (drones) in mountain search and rescue operations

Published:September 15, 2017DOI:



      This study explores the potential use of drones in searching for and locating victims and of motorized transportation of search and rescue providers in a mountain environment using a simulation model.


      This prospective randomized simulation study was performed in order to compare two different search and rescue techniques in searching for an unconscious victim on snow-covered ground. In the control arm, the Classical Line Search Technique (CLT) was used, in which the search is performed on foot and the victim is reached on foot. In the intervention arm, the Drone-snowmobile Technique (DST) was used, the search being performed by drone and the victim reached by snowmobile. The primary outcome of the study was the comparison of the two search and rescue techniques in terms of first human contact time.


      Twenty search and rescue operations were conducted in this study. Median time to arrival at the mannequin was 57.3 min for CLT, compared to 8.9 min for DST. The median value of the total searched area was 88,322.0 m2 for CLT and 228,613.0 m2 for DST. The median area searched per minute was 1489.6 m2 for CLT and 32,979.9 m2 for DST (p < 0.01 for all comparisons).


      In conclusion, a wider area can be searched faster by drone using DST compared to the classical technique, and the victim can be located faster and reached earlier with rescuers transported by snowmobile.


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