One-Person Wilderness SAR Vehicle

A Concept For a

ONE-PERSON SAR Aviation Vehicle

This page is here to share with the world an IDEA I’ve had that could revolutionize wildreness SAR (Search and Rescue).  The genesis of the idea came from a book I’m currently listening to,  The Cold Vanish, by Jon Billman, and by a couple of streaming series I am also currently watching.

All of these are about searching for and hopefully rescuing people who go missing in wilderness areas, and right off the bat, it seems to me one of the biggest obstacles to conducting these search and rescue operations is the terrain. It is nearly always far away from civilzation, and extremely difficult to get to.

Of course, the first part of any SAR operation is the search. In other words, they have to FIND the missing people before they can rescue them or recover whatever is left of them.

When envisioning these efforts, it seems apparent to me that the search would be greatly helped, if the searchers did not have to trudge on foot throughout these wilderness areas, but instead could float above it in some way.

Many SAR efforts involve helicopters, which is an excellent option because helicopters can fly slowly, even at a hover, and they can set down in any reasonably flat space large enough to accommodate the machine. They are also good because they can carry several people, a load of equipment, and can operate in mild to moderate wind conditions with relative impunity. However, they are hugely expensive to operate, and are somewhat limited in their loiter time by their fuel capacity. The standard flight time for a SAR helicopter is about four hours. This would require about 360 gallons of fuel, With fuel currently running about $2.50 per gallon for the type of fuel a helicopter uses, this would make a SAR flight cost about $900 for fuel, plus whatever you need to pay for the pilot, for the observer, and for any equipment used on the flight. It would not be unreasonable to expect a helicopter SAR flight to run into several thousand dollars.

So what about some other type vehicle?

My first thought was a blimp, because it can go low and slow, and it only has to burn fuel for moving, as it can float in the air on its own. That would work, but today’s blimps are very vulnerable to windy conditions, and are not very easily controlled when the weather is acting up.

My next thought was what about a drone? This would, I believe, be much better, cost-wise, but the restrictions with those are that the observer has to be on the ground, watching through a camera and an electronic (Bluetooth?) connection. They also have a quite limited loiter time, so they would require several changes of batteries to enable long searches. They also could not perform any rescue operations.

Next thought: what about a modified version of a combination one-person blimp and a drone?

One of the great developments in drones is their ability to “hover,” meaning they can maintain their position regardless of wind conditions, and are highly controllable, much more so than blimps.

So here’s the current phase of this thought:

A One-Person combination blimp-drone SAR vehicle, something that uses lighter-than-air techology to stay aloft, and drone technology for maneuvering.


Digging into this in more detail, I have found that it takes just under 3,000 cubic feet of helium to lift about 200 pounts, which would be one person and a minimal amount of gear, plus the weight of the SARcraft.

This imagined SARcraft should have an adjustable “floater” unit, that would allow the craft to lift anywhere between 200 and 500 pounds. The bag should be made of mylar, so it will have minimal leakage, and shoul have retractable netting over it to control its size.

In addition, it should have four pivoting electric propellers, each in its own nacelle, to allow the pilot to control the craft and these should be integrated with both short-range radar and GPS to enable the pilot to tell the craft to “hover,” or to move this direction, or that, at a designated speed, from 2mpy up to the max speed of the craft.

The pilot should lie face down in a pod in the belly of the craft, to enable best viewing for SAR seeking purposes, and the pilot should be equipped with infrared-sensitive goggles that would allow highlighting any artifact on the terrain that is warmer than the surrounding terraing.

The craft should be able to be directed to maintain a constant pressure altitude, or a designated altitude AGL (above ground level), and should, as most advanced drones to day, have object avoidance built in, to allow the SARcraft to avoid obstacles such as trees and power lines without detracting from the pilot’s attention to SAR.

With today’s technology in both lighter-than-air craft and with drones, it should be a relatively easy engineering task to build such a craft, and issue it to SAR agencies. Such a craft would greatly ease the burden and increase the efficiency of SAR teams nationwide, and even worldwide.

So how about it? Anyone out there ready to help build a prototype?


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