Standard Operating Procedures
SWARM is an organization that offers aerial search services to SAR organizations and the families of missing persons. Under no circumstances should any SWARM network member require compensation or any fee for their services. Only under special circumstances and arrangements made PRIOR to services rendered can the “pilot” be reimbursed (at the discretion of the SAR Unit in charge or family), for additional equipment or gear needed to execute the search. For example, the SAR unit might authorize the purchase of several batteries in order for you to conduct a longer search. This is permissable as long as it doesn’t come in the form of “compensation” for services.
SWARM is a worldwide volunteer network. Volunteers will not receive compensation for their services. This includes any damages or repairs incurred while on SAR missions.
SWARM members flying UAV’s, should be equipped with a minimum of FPV (first person view) capability. In addition, it is highly recommended and useful to have OSD (On Screen Display Information) and 5-6 spare lipo batteries as your secondary tools.
Other useful (but not mandatory) tools include:
A) Video Record Capability.
B) UHF TX/RX (Long Range reception)
C) Tilt Camera Gimbal.
D) “Low Light” Camera up to FLIR or Infrared Technology.
E) Autonomous Ability for autopilot “Waypoint” search missions.
F) First Aid Kit
G) Ground Station Monitor (for spotter)
H) 2nd pair of Goggles (for “ride along” spotters)
I) 2nd person to act as “ground spotter” for your aircraft
J) Head Tracker (fixed wing)
K) GPS Tracker (to recover lost aircraft)
L) Low Battery Warning Alarm/Beeper
• Drone Pilots should contact and join their own local SAR unit in their respective Country/State/County. Becoming a “certfied SAR volunteer” will aid you when a SAR happens in your area that needs aerial search capabilities.
• Pilots should acquire an FAA Sectional Aeronautical Chart (WAC) from their local FAA field office. This chart gives information about airports in your area and the no-fly zones around them. Contact your local FAA with your intentions to fly where and when necessary.
• All equipment should be maintained, pre and post flight inspected and in good working order at all times. (If you are not sure, don’t fly).
• It is highly recommended that all pilots carry a basic first aid kit with them plus rations for the day. Food / Water and First Aid could be be beneficial for the victim and/or you.
• Pilots are RESTRICTED from flying above 400′ AGL (Above Ground Level). In most situations, 200-300′ AGL is optimum for scanning urban terrain, dense foliage and wooded areas. Check with local law enforcement and/or the FAA or local SAR unit for any variances on this matter.
• We will ALWAYS conduct ourselves in a professional and courteous manner at all times. Remember what we’re there for. To provide help and potentially closure to a worried or grieving family.
• Flying close, in or around groups of people is prohibited. Always take off and land at least 25′ away from people that are unfamiliar with the operation of your aircraft.
• Check with the SAR unit in charge before speaking to the media about Drone operations or the missing person case at hand. In many situations, contact with the media is frowned upon. In the event that you DO speak with the media, keep it professional and represent our SWARM network with the utmost in professionalism. Only talk about what you KNOW to be the facts. Keep personal opinions and conjecture out.
• Always check-in with ground personnel or officer/s in charge at the scene. NEVER fly without the necessary permission to do so. Flying without permission puts your credibility and our reputation and professionalism at risk.
• Extreme care and planning should be taken when there are more than one aircraft in the SAR area (especially conventional aircraft, helicopters etc.). Coordinate closely with the on-scene officer/s, and create a working plan to avoid any potential midair incidents. In the event that you are flying with more than one UAV pilot, perform a pre-flight meeting to discuss any conflicts between your broadcast frequencies etc. Do NOT turn on your radio or video transmitter BEFORE checking with officials and other UAV pilots on scene.
• Whenever flying in a SAR operation, keep a written flight log of the time and location/area that you flew. This information may be required of you later by authorities.
• Maintain your equipment! It is crucial to perform a pre-flight check before EVERY take-off – it is recommended that you carry a check-list with you;
A) Check all of your aircraft batteries with a voltage checker. Check camera Battery. Check GPS tracker Battery. Check ground station Battery. Check goggles Battery.
B) Know what your “course” or survey area will be. There’s no point in searching an area that has already been thoroughly searched.
C) Perform a Compass Calibration (remember – you are in an entirely new area with potentially new compass parameters) Better to be safe than sorry.
D) Check ALL Transmitter Radio Switches and Toggles to ensure they are in the correct position before take-off. Never take-Off in Manual Mode unless you are an expert pilot and have good reason to do so.
E) Wait for GPS lock on the ground. Allowing the aircraft to “lock” in the air does NOT guarantee it will “return to home” safely.
F) Check your prop adapters for adequate tightness.
G) Take off from an “OPEN” area whenever possible. Taking off in dense trees does not guarantee that it can return to home accurately through tree limbs or obstacles.
H) Whenever switching out your battery for fresh one, be sure to turn your radio TX OFF and back on again BEFORE you plug in your fresh battery.
I) If you are not using OSD information, it is advisable to install a battery beeper alarm on your aircraft to alert you when the battery drops below the preset voltage parameters.
J) If you ARE utilizing OSD info, again, wait for full GPS satellite lock BEFORE lifting off.
K) If you are flying in an unfamiliar area, look for large “stand out” landmarks around you in order to “find your way” home again.
L) Whenever possible, bring a “spotter” with you. That person can assist with your course travel plus help search using a ground station monitor or “ride along” goggles. A second support person can be invaluable!
M) It is advisable to fly in GPS mode whenever possible. This ensures that the aircraft will be stable in the air if/when you are distracted on the ground. (Flying in ATTI or full Manual Mode allows the aircraft to “drift” potentially into a dangerous situation).
N) Any and all aerial footage captured with your aircraft is the “property” of the SAR unit and/or family. Copies of that footage should be made available to them as soon as possible.
O) Recorded Aerial Video should be inspected for potential “targets” either on-scene or same day asap.
P) Post flight aircraft inspection – ensure that motors, batterys and esc’s are within normal temperature parameters. Inspect aircraft for any damage to components.
• Members of the SWARM network must be 18 years or older (15 years old to act as “SPOTTER” with a guardian) and are solely responsible for any and all actions in the field. Members are advised to carry their own insurance, AMA membership/insurance etc. SWARM and or it’s officers will not be responsible for any accident, injury or incident in the operation of your aircraft or your participation in any and all SAR operations. We are ONLY an online resource for available SAR volunteers. SARdrones.org and on Facebook.com exists ONLY to provide an online resource of available SAR volunteers around the world. We are not a sanctioned organization or an official non-profit entity. While a majority of our pilots have sufficient multi rotor and RC experience or carry credentials in SAR application, we cannot guarantee the performance of any pilot or equipment. It is solely at the discretion of the official on-scene SAR unit to qualify any and all volunteers from this network prior to their volunteer services.
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