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Drone Flight Debrief – Missing Person – 3-31-2018

This is another flight debrief to help new pilots see what really happens on the front lines of public safety flying. This at least a representation of the self-critical look I take at my own performance after each flight to see what I can learn from the experience.

WFFD UAS Flight Debrief

Date: 3-31-2018

Incident: #[ ]

Location: [ ]

Flight Time: 60 Minutes

Mission Goals:

We were called in to assist in the search for missing teenage female by the local police department.

What Went Well:

The following items were conducted without incident:

  1. PD proactively called for aerial assistance.
  2. Upon request Battalion 1 was notified and FD resources were sent to assist with the search.
  3. It was very effective and helpful that I had the opportunity to talk with mother and get firsthand information to identify local areas the missing subject was most likely to frequent. This gave me a much better mental picture of where to search rather than relying on the repeated information. The reaction of the mother to priority search areas was very beneficial and significantly better guided the search.
  4. Two areas were identified as primary targets in the neighborhood. The area around the pool and ponds was said to be an area the missing subject frequents.
  5. Battalion 1 circulated the neighborhood while the pilot established a safe operations area in the parking lot in front of the community pool.
  6. Battalion 1 and PD resource joined pilot at landing zone (LZ) setup.
  7. Live streaming was established and messages to command team.
  8. Battalion 1 did an excellent job of monitoring screen and calling out first target before pilot saw it.
  9. Battalion 1 identified the target quickly as a probable fire pit and the pilot identified multiple human targets surrounding the probable fire pit.

  10. To rule out if the missing subject was at the gathering, resources were requested to meet with targets.
  11. Police Officers were guided to the location using beacon on the drone as a guide.

  12. Once it was verified the subject was not part of the gathering, additional intelligence was learned that the subject was aware or could see the drone and police searching. Local PD made additional inquiries and learned of friends in the general area of the fire pit.

  13. Additional investigation led information and location of the missing subject at Walmart.
  14. Additional flight operations were conducted to build experience in identifying common area targets.

  15. All flight operations were conducted in a safe manner and flight was within limits.
  16. In general, while there is always room for improvement, I was very pleased with the PD team effort.

What Could Have Gone Better:

  1. Once the fire pit target was located we were not able to give GPS coordinates for either FD or PD to use quickly to locate the target. This caused a delay and inability to move on to other search areas since the drone needed to remain in the position to guide PD into the target.
  2. Information and cooperation with PD was about 80% of where we need to be in a perfect operation. However, proactively calling into dispatch for updates after our PD contact left, worked well.
  3. We might have been able to incorporate FD personnel more in target location with GPS coordinates.
  4. Our drone dispatch process could be smoother and the Battalion Chief and I worked out a potentially better process which I will run past team members for feedback and approval.

Flight Video:

Recommendations From Flight:

The flight built upon a cooperative and growing working relationship with local PD and not only helped to refine a better dispatch process but helped to let us operate as a tighter team.

I would rate the flight as successful even though we did not specifically locate the subject but we were able to play a role in the process that led to the location of the subject.

All equipment operated well and without errors so not technical recommendations are warranted at this time.

About Steve Rhode

Steve is an experienced and certificated UAS pilot and aircraft instrument rated pilot. He is also the Chief Pilot with the Wake Forest Fire Department.
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