Drones touted as aid in search for vanished
SALMON ARM, B.C.
Jody Leon of the Splatsin First Nation in Enderby, near Salmon Arm, organized a search party for the women this spring that covered more than 100 kilometres. Last week, she received the drones from Simpson and held a meeting for interested volunteers.
Leon said she’s connected with a number of experienced drone operators, including some with longerrange drones and another who will help volunteers get licensed under Transport Canada regulations. Their first drone search could be as soon as next week, she said.
“John Simpson has been a huge teacher for me in terms of resiliency,” she added. “In any situation, no matter how painful it is, you can still get up and keep fighting.”
Transport Canada currently requires anyone using drones for anything other than fun to obtain a special flight operations certificate. Applicants for the certificates are evaluated on a caseby-case basis according to criteria including proposed use, safety record and experience, Transport Canada said in a statement.
Even those with a certificate are not allowed to fly drones outside their visual line-of-sight. This makes it difficult for search and rescue crews to use them over distances, said Ali Miri, president of UAViation Aerial Imaging Solutions.
Search and rescue organizations in Kamloops and Coquitlam are participating in a pilot project that allows crews to use drones. The project is set to expand to more groups next year, said Andrew Morrison of Emergency Management B.C.
RCMP have access to drones but Moskaluk declined to say whether they were used in the search for Ashley Simpson. Salmon Arm Search and Rescue said they conducted a three-day ground search.
John Simpson doesn’t believe drones will now find his daughter. His aim is to help others who are searching for their loved ones, especially in the crucial first days after they go missing. He eventually hopes to have a Canadawide network of volunteer drone search teams.
But he said he and his wife won’t ever give up searching for their daughter, a jack of all trades who loves to cook, travel and entertain children, and who turns 34 on Nov. 15. “We’ll fight this right to the very end,” said Simpson. “We’ll bring our daughter home and lay her to rest here.”