Drones touted as aid in search for van­ished

National Post (National Edition) - - CANADA - The Cana­dian Press

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.”

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