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Earlier this year the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in Nova Scotia unveiled a new fleet of vision-enabled unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) for purposes that include crash scene investigation, search and rescue, and emergency response.

A few months later, one of these UAVs successfully located two adults and their 17-month-old child in the woods.

While the UAV’s manufacturer is not listed, RCMP Const. Mark Skinner told Global News in a previous article that the vehicles are equipped with either a 20.2 MPixel Sony camera or a FLIR infrared camera. In this particular instance, which involves locating lost people in a forest, a thermal imager makes the most sense, since it can identify heat signatures among the trees.

Unmanned Systems Conference 2014 – Israel

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When the family went missing, the Halifax district RCMP deployed a K-9 unit to search the heavily-wooded northeast area of Topsail Lake. When this was unsuccessful, the UAV was launched and the family was located just five-and-a-half hours after they had initially called the police to tell them they were lost.

RCMP officers operating these UAVs are required to have a special certificate from Transport Canada in order to fly the UAVs, similar to how the FAA requires a Certificates of Waiver or Authorization (COA), which are available to public entities that want to fly a UAV in civil airspace. This includes for law enforcement, firefighting, border patrol, disaster relief, military training, government missions, and lastly, search and rescue. However, applications must make their request through an online process so the FAA can evaluate whether or not the proposed operation can be conducted safely.