Using DroneDeploy for SAR


In the area I live there is currently a young woman missing and they have traced her to an area of a canyon. They are requesting drone pilots fly over the area to search for her. I’m thinking Drone Deploy could really come in handy with this. Any suggestions on best settings and so forth to make this optimal?

The woman has been missing since Feb 18. They have her signal from her cell phone entering a canyon…but the family would like to search the trails, creek bed foothills of the mountains near this location just to cover more ground.

Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Where is this taking place?

Personally, if I were going to lead an effort of this nature I would focus on coordination to cover the most area. If the pilots are any good I don’t see how any autonomous flight pattern is going to be better than human sight and intuition. Unless you have a drone with some serious AI you would have to break an autonomous mission every time you thought you saw something. It’s not like you are going to map the area and then look for her if it is truly a rescue mission.

  • Create a coordinated plan.
  • Break into two-man teams of pilot and observer, even better if your drones have the capability of two-man control it would allow the pilot to focus on a mapped pattern and the aircraft while the observer focus on the FPV. If you have the ability to connect your controller to an external display you can have more viewers. I have used an HDMI cable, Apple Airplay and another program that allowed me to wirelessly stream to my laptop in the past.
  • A slightly oblique camera angle will give you longer field of view.
  • Don’t be afraid to retrace you flight path in opposite directions where angle of attack may help you see around obstructions.

Feel free to message me if there is any flight planning that I could be of assistance with. I have a several ways to produce flight plans agnostic of drone type. Godspeed.

Just thinking if on the other hand that if this has been deemed a recovery mission that you do want to review a map of then yes DroneDeploy would be a good solution. Gridding the mass area between multiple pilots and running very high overlaps would provide the best detail. Maybe 250’ AGL with 85% overlaps? If the terrain elevation varies greatly I would start to think of another piece of software that would allow you to plan the mission in Google Earth with a ground-relative path then import the KML. I don’t think DroneDeploy yet has the capability to pull the individual waypoint elevations in this case. Or the ability to have specific AGL’s for specific waypoints.

So a couple of things here. There is a FB page dedicated to locating her and they sort of want to simply rule out some areas. The Sherrif SAR is searching on foot along the river with dogs and into thicker brush.

So here is the area:

So this woman has been missing since Feb 18th. She is a runner. She had been running north up 4800 W. Two cameras spotted her on that road. Her path after that is a little unclear. Her cell phone pinged at the mouth of the canyon and then higher up in the canyon but most cel coverage is spotty at best and usually non-existent. Those who are assisting would like someone to drone the foothills and the wash at the bottom of the canyon.

My thought was capturing enough video would allow for review at home or by multiple users to see if we can find anything.

Flying in the canyon would be tough. There is enough growth an elevation change that you would be very hard pressed to get great coverage.

Thanks for the information…

Hi @Drew_Schmidt,

I’m sorry to hear about this tragedy, but am glad to see that there is a proactive effort taking place. I wish I was an expert on Search & Rescue efforts so I could offer more useful information. I believe @Skytographerz has had some experience with similar efforts, and he used thermal cameras in the process. Hopefully he can chime in and share some tips.

Best of luck,

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Hello Christina, i am interesting about Dronedeploy, if you are the drone service company or others?

Hi @yangdaonline,

Feel free to create a new topic with questions about DroneDeploy. Our community will be happy to help you out. Let’s leave this post for our original poster and his topic.


Drew, would be interested in how you proceeded with this mission. We are exploring the use of DD for SAR and have some of the same issues (e.g. - terrain, altitude changes, forested areas, etc.). Hope your search was a “find”, not a recovery.

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So I think video is the way to go. I shot both pictures and video and the advantage of video is that you can pause and look at it at any time and get more shots. Flying low, slow, and having the camera at an angle to see under trees and so forth is very handy. This works pretty good for flat areas where you need to cover a lot of space. We live in the west so there aren’t tons of trees block my view where I’m flying. We were searching over large areas where it’s just harder for people to walk and search.

I think the goggles might really come in handy with this. I might need to buy a pair. I was flying in some bright sun for a while with the Phantom 4 connected to a large iPad. It works great, but sometimes you just can’t see everything you want to see. I knew there were multiple lines in the area and I had to be careful.

They have now traced the woman to a rather rocky and steep mountain side with a trail that is about 1.5 miles long with over 1000 ft. elevation climb. There are plenty of places to hide if she were to have slid off. So now we are flying in some very steep rocky canyon areas that are hard to cover. We also have Forest Service land mixed with a National park so that is a bit of a problem.

I also found which allows you to upload your flight data and then see lots of data associated with the flight. Including the ability to dump the path to a KML file and import it into Google Earth. In the case of the mountain area it became very difficult to know what I had covered and had not covered. Lots of rocks, trees and the such.

The image below e is the KML file downloaded from AirData and uploaded to Google Earth. So now I have a complete 3d view of where I flew, how high was, and it helps give me the chance to see what I missed and where I can go lower. We’ve then added things to the Google Earth, like a line for the trail we think she was on. A few other points where a trail cam caught her in pictures and where there is a gate that blocks the trail.

SAR has been all up and down the trail…and gone down some of the rock washes…yet they have to be careful not to knock rocks loose and onto the road below.

There are other settings in Airdata that let you see when and where you started video. Or took pictures. And with the video and pictures where you were facing. Very handy.

I have a old friend who is in SAR and I’m working with him to put me into contact with some of the other SAR folks who use drones. I’m sure there is a lot to learn and I think I might volunteer.

I’m also thinking of getting the professional license. Simply because in the canyons I might only be 50 meters off the ground at any given time…but when the hillside and the steep grades I’m much higher than that compared to my launch point. Or simply being able to fly out of view to get to some of the harder to reach areas.

I would be curious to see what you discover. Or how it works for you.

MavPilot2 - feel free to email me at

Now with Thermal inspection can be DD used in SAR missions? it would be helpful if we can use the flight plan in order to search in a orderly manner.

I believe live map works with the thermal as well.

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