Geo Week News

April 22, 2015

FAA Approves UAV Use for Search and Rescue in Maine

Viking Drone

SPAR reported last week that the FAA had introduced a summary grant process to improve the speed at which they could grant 333 exemptions. At the time we published, the process had already increased the number of exemptions from 69 to 99. As of this writing, about a week later, the FAA register lists 189 entries.

One such company that received an exemption from a newly invigorated FAA gives this reporter a little bit of home-state pride: Maine’s Downeast Emergency Medicine Institute. The Bangor Daily News reports that DEEMI are the first civilian entity to receive a 333 exemption from the FAA to perform search and rescue operations. Given the terms of the summary grant–which allows the FAA to fast-track an exemption request if a similar request has already been granted–this opens the door for many other entities to start using drones for similar search and rescue operations.

Richard Bowie, director of the Down East Emergency Medicine Institute, believes that the use of UAVs will help to save lives. According to BDN, DEEMI plans to use two drones it has purchased from a Maine company to search places that helicopters and fix-wing aircraft can’t reach. It is also able to stream data to the ground and carry necessary supplies like cell phones, radios, food, lighters to start fires, and even heart medications, bee sting kits, and automatic defibrillators.

After receiving training at Viking Unmanned Aerial Solutions, who manufacture and sell the VK-FF-X4 pictured above, DEEMI’s pilots will begin to use the UAVs. They will be required to keep the vehicles at an altitude below 200 feet and within line of sight.

Either way, many of you are likely excited to see that the FAA is moving much faster to allow the use of drones, especially when they can do such unambiguous good.


Commercial UAV Expo, a new trade show and conference organized by SPAR 3D, will take place October 5-7, 2015 in Las Vegas. It focuses on the commercial UAV/UAS market in North America covering including Surveying & Mapping; Civil Engineering & Infrastructure;  Mining; Construction; Process, Power & Utilities; Precision Agriculture; and Law Enforcement, Security, Emergency Response.

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