British Columbia

New B.C.-made drone to be tested with search and rescue crews

A new drone fashioned by a North Vancouver engineer might be just the solution to help mitigate the risks of looking for lost hikers.

Stefan Weissenberg says drone will help find people, reduce risk for rescuers

This B.C.-made drone has been designed to aid in search and rescue operations. (Riderless Aerotechnology)

B.C.'s rugged and remote terrain can often be challenging for search and rescue teams. 

But a new drone fashioned by a North Vancouver engineer might be just the solution to help mitigate the risks of looking for people lost in the backcountry. 

Stefan Weissenberg has been testing a one-kilogram drone he says is portable, waterproof, loaded with an infrared camera and can handle rough conditions. 

He started on the project when he graduated as an aeronautical engineer from the University of Sydney in Australia in 2013. 

Weissenberg is a big fan of the outdoors and is an avid backcountry skier and rafter; he also volunteers with the Mount Seymour ski patrol. That's what inspired him to create a drone for search and rescue crews.

"It's a tool for looking in areas that you might not be able to reach easily," he said.

Right now, a rescuer might have to descend down into a ravine or gully or kayak up a river to find people. 

"It's very time consuming for the rescuers, because even if they don't know that someone is down there they still need to check," Weissenberg says. "It's dangerous work as well."

The drone should be able to save time and reduce the risk, he said. He's done demonstrations for several search and rescue groups and BC Hydro. 

And next month, he says his drone will be tested by Kaslo SAR and North Shore Rescue. He's hoping the feedback will help him improve the design.

It won't replace a rescuer, but Weissenberg says it will be one more tool in the arsenal.

"It's enough to see if someone is down there or it warrants further investigation," he said.


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