On August 27th the Texas Gulf Coast Regional Public Safety Unmanned Response Team (Texas Drone Force) held a multi-scenario training event utilizing drones for coastal Search and Rescue operations. Over 20 agencies from across the region participated in the event and had a guest appearance by Texas State Senator Larry Taylor. The training started with a classroom session at the Galveston Beach Patrol Headquarters where the United States Coast Guard UAS team discussed lessons learned and their workflow for Search and Rescue operations. Following the classroom session, the participants then started the land-based Search and Rescue scenarios.
The participants were tasked to search a coastal roadway for six missing children. The pilot would then use their drone to search the area for six lids that were hidden in the area and report the letter designation that was attached to the lid for verification. The participants then were tasked to conduct a search and rescue scenario over open water. The United States Coast Guard deployed their rescue dummy known as “Oscar” at an unknown location in a search area. The pilots were then tasked to locate Oscar and coordinate rescue efforts with ground and marine assets.
After lunch, which was provided by Darley, the participants then met at the Galveston Sector Coast Guard Field Office to train how to deploy from a moored waterborne vessel. The participants practiced hand takeoffs and retrievals for the scenario to safely deploy the drone due to the moving platform of the vessel. While participants were practicing waterborne deployments, the other teams competed in a fast track course where they tested their skills against the clock. This course was developed by Galveston’s Community Emergency Response Team member and former NASA ISS Subsystem manager Bill Spenny. Pearland Police Department pilots Officer Oubre and Officer Arnold won the competition with the fastest times.
These scenarios were conducted to better prepare the region for search and rescue events for the upcoming Hurricane season. During Hurricane Harvey in 2017 the Gulf Coast Region saw extreme flooding throughout the greater Houston area. These agencies are now better prepared to respond to local or regional flooded or coastal areas for Search and Rescue operations.
The Texas Gulf Coast Public Safety UAS Response Team is comprised of over 60 government agencies and over 90 pilots. The team has responded to multiple large scale search and rescue events such as the Llano River Flood Incident, Kemah Chief of Police Search and Rescue, and have assisted in several other incidents. The team also holds monthly meetings and provides several UAS related training to better prepare agencies to provide safer communities through technology.
A special thank you goes out to Officer Larry Boggus with Memorial Villages PD and Chief John Venzke with Bayou Vista Fire Department for planning and coordinating the event. Gary Messmer and The United States Coast Guard for coordinating and setting up the waterborne deployment scenarios. Bill Spenny, Officer Herbert Oubre, and Officer Chris Nash for coordinating and instructing the land based scenarios.