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15-03-2022

Saving lives with innovation

Written by Karst Beens

Search & Rescue missions always involve danger. This is because the rescuer is often in unknown territory. This can lead to loss of time, which can make the difference between life and death. In the worst case scenario for the rescuer, the mission can become life-threatening. That is why we want to help make such underwater missions less risky.

With this in mind, we gave a demonstration to the fire brigade of Rotterdam Rijnmond Safety Region. These days, they are increasingly busy searching for victims who have ended up in water, and deploy divers to assist them. But why do they need the help of a drone? The answer is hidden in the first paragraph: safety! However, the drone does not completely replace the divers. Rather, we support the divers.

The drone will go into the water before the diver. This way we can check the environment for safety risks. For example, obstacles which the diver can get stuck behind or places which he should not swim in due to cramped conditions or currents.

 

What does our underwater drone offer for Search & Rescue?
Besides safety, we can also help make the mission more efficient. Currently, for a Search & Rescue mission, the search area is divided into grids. This grid helps with orientation and is intended to ensure that no spot is left unexamined or examined twice. While this is an efficient method, it does take a lot of time to make such a grid. But with our drones, grids are no longer necessary.

This is due to our sonar software! In most Dutch waters a diver has no more than one to two metres visibility underwater. Even with light these conditions hardly improve. Sonar, on the other hand, has a range of sixty metres and is not affected by dark or turbid water. In short: with sonar, the mission becomes much easier and can be carried out faster, allowing the victim to be rescued or located sooner. No preparations are required, only a few minutes to prepare the drone for the dive.

 

The fire brigade of Rotterdam Rijnmond Safety Region
Project leader Rick Koedoot of the Rotterdam Rijnmond Safety Region was responsible for the purchase of the ROV REVOLUTION underwater drone from H2O Drones. He confirms that the drones are mainly used to support divers and to search for human victims who have fallen into the water.

“Of course we have diving teams in the fire brigade, but that is a risky task,” Koedoot explains. “We want to work as risk-free as we can, despite the dangerous work.” He emphasises that the underwater drones from H2O Drones can be of great help to their divers. “The ROVs, or underwater drones, are equipped with sonar and therefore have particularly good underwater visibility, even when the water is dark or murky. That is important for risk analysis,” he said.

As Koedoot says, the drones will make a risk analysis for our divers, so that they know what to expect underwater. “This can significantly reduce the number of potential accidents. We want to know what the drones see underwater, such as obstacles. Then we can determine if it is dangerous for a diver.” After all, divers can get stuck behind obstacles underwater, which can create a life-threatening situation.

 

“The cooperation is super. The communication is smooth and we could ask and perform whatever we wanted and were well guided in this. Of course, we had questions and wanted to do some tests and that was also possible. That was very helpful and informative.”

Rick Koedoot, fire brigade Safety region Rotterdam Rijnmond

 

Locating human victims underwater is also what the drone will be used for. This can also be done quickly and efficiently thanks to the sonar. How Security Region Rotterdam Rijnmond came up with underwater drones as a solution is another story.

For his thesis in 2014, DaniĆ«l Boender, diving coordinator at the fire brigade of Safety Region Rotterdam Rijnmond, researched the safety of diving and Search & Rescue missions. Through him, the fire brigade came up with the idea of using underwater drones with sonar. Often when they searched for a victim during a Search & Rescue mission with divers and were unsuccessful, the police came to continue the search. They did so with a boat equipped with sonar. “And I saw some possibilities in that,” said Boender. “They then find the victim very quickly. If we had that three hours earlier, we could have made a difference,” he added. “The question then came to me quickly: why don’t we have that?”

Boender emphasises that diving is not without risk. “We have lost or nearly lost people during missions. I then started studying Integral Safety to tackle this problem. And with success.”

It went with trial and error according to Boender. “We tested a lot of options, but not everything was equally effective. At the time, these were interesting options with potential, but there was no decisive model among them.” After the test phase and getting the green light to innovate within the diving team, he ended up with H2O Drones through a tender. “Soon we got into a conversation and came to the purchase of a drone. The next step is to make this national. This innovation fell so well that most were convinced to share it with other safety regions.”

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Future
We are delighted that the fire brigade of Rotterdam Rijnmond Safety Region also saw the advantages of our drones and made the choice to strengthen their team with our Deep Trekker ROV REVOLUTION underwater drone. They chose the standard equipped version, which is more than enough to improve the safety and efficiency of their missions.

We will support them as much as we can in making their missions safer. To share our knowledge and skills with the firefighters, we are giving ten firefighters a course on how to use our drones (most efficiently).

We would like to thank the Rotterdam Rijnmond Safety Region fire brigade again for the opportunity to show what our drones can do and what an asset they are in Search & Rescue missions. We wish them much success with further missions!


Wondering if our drones can also help you in the field?

Contact us here or check our social media!

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