Search And Rescue Drones: An Irreplaceable Tool For The SAR Industry

Find out how using drones for search and rescue will allow you to mobilise your search and rescue missions to see the action as it happened from wherever you are – thus allowing you to respond faster and more accurately to critical situations. Read More

What Are Search And Rescue Drones?

Drones are steadily becoming a widely used tool across many industries and play a vital role in increasing safety and productivity.

The search and rescue industry is one of the industries that have been heavily influenced by the use of drones. Search mission times can be reduced significantly while reducing potential risk to the people being rescued – as well as the rescuers.

SAR drones are unmanned aircraft used by emergency services and are ideal for locating missing people, crime victims, or those in need of rescue in any environment.

Drones reduce risk and save time. Since every search and rescue mission is time-sensitive and safety is the number one priority, drones have become an irreplaceable tool for the search and rescue industry.

Drones are versatile and can be used in different types of search and rescue missions and situations, such as finding missing animals or kids, locating lost hikers, or even helping people with memory loss find their way home.

Search and rescue UAVs provide real-time imagery and data which can be effectively utilized in the aftermath of a hurricane, earthquake, or other natural disasters.

There are three main areas where drones really help improve search and rescue missions:

  • Decrease response time
  • Decrease costs
  • Provide real-time data
  • Reduce risk
  • Providing automated search coverage of a precise area

Traditionally, search and rescue teams have used helicopters or airplanes to assist in acquiring aerial data – for example, a manned helicopter would be used to survey an area to locate a missing person. However, airplanes and helicopters take time to deploy, need runways or helipads to take off, are expensive to operate, and require a person onboard.

When compared to SAR drones, these methods are slow and involve more risk.

Search and rescue teams need accurate information in real-time to make the best decision and save time – especially when disaster or incident threatens lives. SAR drones can provide situational awareness over large areas quickly – thereby reducing the time and the number of team members required to locate and rescue a lost or injured person, significantly reducing the cost and the risk involved in SAR missions.

With search and rescue drones – the possibilities for helping to ensure the safety of the public are endless.

Why The Role Of SAR UAVs Are Becoming Increasingly Important In Search And Rescue Missions

The search and rescue industry is needed now more than ever – mainly due to the increasing effects of climate change on our planet.

Many regions face drastic natural disasters such as hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, and tornados, all of which cause many people in need of rescue. People become stranded in places without access to food and drinkable water. UAVs are perfectly designed to help search and rescue teams manage natural disasters.

Whether a search and rescue mission is in response to a natural disaster, missing hikers, or a lost animal – the capabilities of an unmanned aircraft to search large areas quickly and efficiently make the team’s efforts much more effective and safe for all involved.

How Are Drones Used In Search And Rescue Missions?

search and rescue drones for wildfires

Search and rescue drones can provide SAR teams with information that is critical to their mission from an aerial vantage point and can be deployed quickly at any scene.

When drones are equipped with thermal infrared and zoom cameras, the drone can be used to locate a subject fast and then zoom in to evaluate a situation or assess the status of the subject.

Infrared or thermal cameras can detect thermal or heat radiation emitted from a heat source. The camera can then construct a video image with the data. A heat source can be anything that emits warmth, like a human, animal, engine, or fire.

In terms of search and rescue missions, this means that as long as there is a living body emitting heat, the infrared camera can pick up the image – day or night. This allows operators to locate the person more easily. Most infrared cameras provide a clear enough image to give an accurate shape of the heat-emitting object – allowing operators to distinguish between animals and humans – which is especially useful when attempting to locate a missing hiker in the wilderness.

Locating people who are in distress or injured and coordinating an effective response by ground teams is often the most difficult and time-consuming part of a search and rescue mission. Search and rescue UAVs can:

  1. Survey large areas quickly
  2. Identify the subject in distress by thermal signature,
  3. Assess the subject’s status with high definition video
  4. Assess the environment with high definition video
  5. Communicate with the subject real-time
  6. Communicate with the ground team in real-time
  7. Give real-time information on the location of the subject
  8. Give real-time information about ground accessibility conditions

Basically, SAR drones can assist in providing crucial information to the search and rescue team and ensure they make the best and safest decisions.

Thermal Imaging

Drones that are equipped with thermal imaging cameras can cover large areas much faster than a search and rescue team can cover on foot. Search and rescue drones can also be deployed much faster and be operated at a much lower cost than traditional manned aircraft, such as helicopters or airplanes.

Thermal imaging is a huge benefit for search and rescue teams. Body heat makes humans naturally stand out from their surroundings – making them easy to spot via thermal camera.

By combining this camera technology with a long-range UAV equipped with GPS – it allows the operator to provide SAR teams with vital information, such as exact GPS coordinates of subjects once they have been located.

search and rescue drone camera

What Is The Difference Between Thermal Imaging And Night Vision?

Night vision cameras work by magnifying any available light and displaying it back to you – thus night vision relies on reflected light. Therefore, there must be some available light, such as the moon or streetlights, or you will not be able to see your subject.

On the other hand, thermal cameras can “see” in total darkness. This is because it is relying on heat emitted by the subject itself – such as a human or animal.

Contrary to what you might have seen in action movies – thermal cameras won’t show objects through glass, however, you can detect which parts of a window, for example, are warmer and colder – detecting broken seals or fittings that might be leaking air. These cameras fitted to drones also won’t allow you to monitor thermal activity inside a house – for that a powerful, heavy standalone unit with direct contact is needed to “see” through walls.

With that being said – thermal cameras fitted on drones are more than capable to perform the functions needed for search and rescue missions – day or night.

Zoom Cameras

Once a subject has been located via a SAR drone with a thermal imaging camera, optical zoom cameras can be used to evaluate the subject’s well being. This aids in analyzing the environment and situation, helping search and rescue teams make the best decisions.

For example, if the subject has a broken leg, the rescue team can be notified to take a stretcher with them. Information such as this can save valuable time in rescue missions and ultimately could mean the difference between life and death.

Payload Drop Systems

Payload drop systems can be very useful in search and rescue missions as it enables the team to have life-saving tools delivered to them and the subject – such as supplies or communication devices.

For example – during floods, people may become stranded. In these situations, life jackets and rescue lines can be delivered to stranded subjects and rescuers can guide them to safety. Supplies, such as water, can also be delivered to subjects in need.

Find The Perfect Search And Rescue Drone

Drones for search and rescue purposes should meet certain criteria.

  1. Long flight endurance
  2. Return to home function
  3. First-person view technology
  4. GPS
  5. Intelligent mapping technology
  6. Thermal sensors
  7. Object tracking

ALTI’s fleet of UAVs are ideal for search and rescue missions and will allow you to stay airborne for longer while continuing the search.

In search and rescue missions, every second counts. ALTI’s fleet of long-endurance SAR UAVs will allow you to optimize the efficiency of your search and rescue efforts.

Cover More Ground

Get up to 40 times more ground coverage allowing you to get the job done in a single flight – greatly reducing risk and saving time.

Get Airborne Fast

ALTI’s UAVs are ultra-compact and don’t need bulky launch or recovery equipment, while the VTOL technology allows you to take off anywhere.

Get An Accurate Real-Time Account Of A Situation

The real-time aerial data collected during the UAVs flight will give you an in-depth and accurate overview of any situation.

Make The Best Decisions

ALTI’s SAR UAVs get you the data you need the first time, so you can make quick and informed decisions.

Respond Faster

Mobilize your search and rescue missions from wherever you are and respond faster to critical situations.

ALTI’s SAR Unmanned Aircraft Fleet

ALTI offers a complete fleet of the best endurance VTOL unmanned aircraft in the world.

The ALTI Ascend

The ALTI Ascend is a small, ultra-compact endurance VTOL that offers up to five times the endurance of any competing system.

  • 600g payload
  • 6-hour endurance
  • 75km/h speed
  • 450km coverage
  • $3.00 USD hourly cost
  • 2-meter wingspan

Click here for more details about the ALTI Ascend.

The ALTI Transition

The ALTI Transition is a highly reliable, ultra-long endurance VTOL fixed-wing aircraft that can take-off and land just about anywhere.

  • 5kg payload
  • 12-hour endurance
  • 75km/h speed
  • 900km coverage
  • $3.50 USD hourly cost
  • 3-meter wingspan

Click here for more details about the ALTI Transition.

The ALTI Reach

The ALTI Reach is the much larger, heavy lift big brother to the Transition and is capable of twice the flight endurance with nearly five times the payload capacity. The Reach is the largest and most capable endurance VTOL unmanned aircraft in the world.

  • 7kg payload
  • 12+ hour endurance
  • 90km/h speed
  • 1,000+ km coverage
  • $9.50 USD hourly cost

Click here for more details about the ALTI Reach.

All ALTI’s drones have a few key features which make them the ideal choice for the search and rescue industry:

ALTI's fleet of search and rescue drones

Long Endurance

ALTI’s SAR UAVs allow you to extend your mission parameters with endurance of up to 12 hours and an operating link range of up to 150km. The fuselage features an advanced aerodynamic design for unmatched performance.

Hybrid Fixed Wing

ALTI’s fixed-wing drones feature a reliable quadcopter component for vertical take-off and landing. The VTOL component uses electricity, while the fixed-wing propulsion is fuelled with petrol.

Rapid Deploy

There is no need for bulky launch equipment – making ALTI’s fleet practical and able to get in the air fast. The airframe is completely modular and can be deployed rapidly in under 20 minutes.

Long Endurance

ALTI’s SAR UAVs allow you to extend your mission parameters with endurance of up to 12+ hours and an operating link range of up to 150 km. The fuselage features an advanced aerodynamic design for unmatched performance.


ALTI’s unmanned aircraft can ascend vertically to altitude, where it transitions into forward wing-bound flight for the duration of the flight. These UAVs can land just about anywhere, quickly, reliably, and safely with a smooth and level back transition into a solid hover.


These UAVs are designed to fly various payloads – from high-resolution mapping systems to advanced surveillance EO.IR cameras with object track and more.

Advanced Design

ALTI’s SAR drones all have an advanced aerodynamic design with low stall speed, efficient cruise with very low drag, excellent stability in high winds, and an MTOW of only 80kg.

Low Running Costs

ALTI’s fleet prices lower than any other comparable system on the market – with low operating costs, no expensive and bulky launch equipment, recovery hardware, and less staffing.

Mobilize Your Search And Rescue Missions With A Search And Rescue Drone

search and rescue UAV

Search and rescue missions are entirely unpredictable.

SAR drones will allow you to mobilize your search and rescue missions to see the action as it happened from wherever you are – thus allowing you to respond faster and more accurately to critical situations.