RP Search Services turn to crowd funding.


Two call outs for search and rescue (SAR) missions in one week! It would seem that more and more, that unmanned aircraft are being viewed as a useful tool in these situations. We at RPSearch Services (www.rpsearchservices.org) couldn’t agree more! We’ve been doing it for 10 long years now and are continually refining how we use the Specra flying wing, and just recently, the very kind donation from DJI of an Inspire 1 quad copter. As always we have never charged a family or an agency for our services. That’s the reason we took the time and effort and became IRS qualified as a 501(c)3 tax exempt charity. We have been managing with grants and small donations but with popularity and acceptance comes increased frequency of call outs.

Many in the unmanned aircraft industry will probably recall just last September when we assisted the Plano Texas Police Department and Texas Equusearch in a missing persons case using the MLB Superbat owned by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Sadly that case has yet to be solved and now there is a person-of-interest so it is likely a case of foul play. We send our thoughts and prayers to that family. But respond we did, and it gained some attention because we also managed to get an Emergency Certificate of Authorization (ECOA) approved through the Federal Aviation Administration. While it did take over a day and a half to get this done, it was the beginning of what is to be required of all agencies and the time required to get it done. Baby steps, but still steps forward.

This past weekend, we were again called on to assist with the search for two teenage boys in Baytown Texas. The science of missing person searches has been studied and carefully documented and is becoming better defined, but one thing still remains. There are areas where unmanned aircraft are the best for recording high resolution digital stills. We were called in to specifically image areas of creeks and waterways that were inaccessible to foot searchers and too shallow for boats and side scan sonar. Again we applied for and received an ECOA from the FAA, this time it took 19 hours from first contact to issuance, which is an improvement from the September search. While getting closer we need to be able to respond in as many minutes, rather than the hours it took.

RPSearch Services closed their portion of the search with three days/two nights on the road with over 500 miles driven, over 400 images taken, and square miles cleared for the search/incident command. This is what we do, and as much as we would like to do it all the time, it costs money to do so. We have been fortunate in the past with agencies that could help us defray the cost of travel and lodging but for every one that can help, there is one that cannot. Since September, this past weekends effort is the eighth consecutive search that has been funded completely by RPSearch Services and the outflow has exceeded the inflow by a wide margin. To that end, we begin a new fund raising cycle and call on our friends to help.

RPSearch Services is now turning to “crowd funding” in hopes of bolstering our search finances through the GoFundMe website. Our campaign was launched just last week and can be seen here www.gofund.me/nq2zf4. Our good friends here at sUASNews have agreed to help us out by spreading the word and calling on all our “drone” friends to pitch in. Even though we have modest goals to upgrade our equipment, the operational cost continue to climb as requirements are made for stand alone liability insurance, maintenance on “Puppyfeet One”, (our donated mobile command unit), and just keeping the equipment in good flying order. It would be great if we could exceed this first small goal to help continue the good things we do and to assist all UA pilots by showing the positive use of our aircraft. You can read more about what we are doing through the campaign at www.gofund.me/nq2zf4 and check out the video and very cool aerial shots done by our friends at C9D.

I would like to say “THANKS!” to everyone that has supported us in the past, not only with funds, but the moral support and confirmation that we ARE doing the right thing. And a big THANKS to all of you who will push that “donate” button. Please send it to all your Twitter follows and your Facebook friends. Every little bit helps! Corporate sponsors welcome, we have tons of “whitespace” on the van! All funds we collect go to directly to the search effort, we are volunteers and don’t collect pay for this. We use 100% of our money to upgrade, maintain our equipment or cover transportation costs, to and from searches.

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Gene Robinson
sUAS News Podcast co-host | RPAS Search & Rescue expert | Gene Robinson has been a proponent of the flying wing for SAR ops for many years. Since 2005, Gene has utilized small UAS to assist Texas EquuSearch in searches from California, to New York, visiting 29 states in the union. He has also conducted UAS operations in Jamaica, Mexico, and Africa and has assisted SAR teams in recovering victims lost for lengthy periods. The use of UAS technology has been credited with the recovery of 10 victims, assisted law enforcement in evidenciary searches, and performed forward wild land fire observations. Should you meet Gene at a show or search ask him about the llamas.