While stating the S.O.P. as it pertains to pilots in the USA, most of the following guidelines also apply to international pilot members. This S.O.P. will be amended in the future to include specific laws and guidelines for countries outside of the USA.
- SWARM is a worldwide organization headquartered in the USA that offers NO-FEE aerial search services to Families of missing persons and/or official SAR organizations. Under no circumstances should any SWARM network member request compensation or require any fee for SWARM related assistance. Only under special circumstances and arrangements made PRIOR to any services rendered can the Swarm pilot be reimbursed (at the sole discretion of the host, family and/or SWARM/SAR IC/ Director) for additional equipment, image software, etc. needed to successfully execute the search mission.
Example: The SAR unit in charge or “Primary Family Contact” might authorize the purchase of additional UAS batteries in order for SWARM team member(s) to conduct a more broad area search. This is permissible as long as it doesn’t come in the form of “compensation” for services and is cleared prior by a SWARM Officer/Admin.
SWARM is an All Volunteer non-profit database network. Volunteers/Members may not receive or request compensation or gratuities from mission request Family members, On-Scene SAR unit or SWARM for any services provided while representing the SWARM Network. Unauthorized “Compensation” includes; Travel expenses, Lodging, Equipment, Expense, Permits, Insurance and/or any incurred damages or loss of equipment/UAS including repairs for any damages while engaging in a SWARM SAR volunteer mission.
- Any and All mission participation (while representing the SWARM Network) must be approved by a SWARM Officer/Admin PRIOR to participation.
- SWARM Pilot operators must be 18 years of age or older.
- SWARM member pilots flying any approved UAS should be equipped with a minimum of FPV (first person view) and video record capability.
- Be of proper legal age (dependent on country) to fly a UAS / Fixed wing aircraft with current certification/credentials (e.g. USA = FAA 107 Remote Pilot Certification or FAA Section 333 COA (Certificate of Waiver or Authorization) to be part of a ICS/LE SAR mission.
- Must be physically and mentally sound, physically fit for environment and drug and alcohol free when operating any UAS or participating on behalf of SWARM..
Mission Specific Guidelines for UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems):
- Authorization prior to participation.
- SAR Capable UAS in good working order with not less than 3 total aircraft batteries.
- SAR capable flight app / DJIGO4, Litchi, Drone Deploy (or other SAR capable App.
- Ability to charge batteries on scene. (AC inverter / Generator etc.)
- UAS must display FAA registration number (or international equivalent) on aircraft.
- UAS capable of capture and record 1080P resolution (or 4K) video and not less than 8 Megapixel Still Photos.
- SD/Memory Card/s with not less than 64 Gig total storage.
- Additional Supplies including Cell Phone, Food, Water etc.
Additional Tools Include (not mandatory):
- UHF TX/RX (Long Range reception)
- Stabilizing Camera Gimbal.
- “Low Light” or Thermal Camera Technology.
- Fully Autonomous Mission Capability, ie; “Waypoint” grid missions.
- First Aid Kit, Flash Light, Appropriate clothing for conditions.
- Second Person/Helper to act as “Ground/Safety Spotter”
- Secondary Live Video Monitor (for spotter and/or IC))
- Secondary FPV Goggles (for spotter and/or IC)
- Head Tracking Camera Capability
- Onboard GPS Tracker (Lost UAS locater)
- High Visibility Safety Vest/Clothing
- UAS Strobe Beacon
- Multiple Micro SD cards each with 16GB+ / Class 10 UHD.
- All pilots should have access to the (free) phone/tablet app “UASidekick” to check NOTAM, TFRs, etc. in the mission area.
- All pilots should have access to real time local weather reports at or prior to flight. All equipment should be maintained, pre and post flight inspected and in good working order at all times.
- Pilots should acquire an FAA Sectional Aeronautical Chart (WAC) from their local FAA field office. This chart gives information about airports in your area and the no-fly zones around them. Contact the FAA whenever necessary.
- It is highly recommended that all SWARM volunteers carry a basic first aid kit plus adequate water and rations for the day.
- Pilots are RESTRICTED from flying above 400′ AGL (Above Ground Level). In most situations, 80-125’′ AGL is optimum for identifying persons in or around dense foliage, structures or wooded areas. Clear with SAR IC and/or the FAA prior to any flight exceeding 400′.
- SWARM/SAR members will ALWAYS conduct themselves in a professional and courteous manner. We are there to provide aid, continued hope and resolution to a worried and grieving family.
- Flying close, in, above or around groups of people is prohibited. Always take off/land not less than 25′ away from anyone unfamiliar with the operation of UAS.
- Check with the SAR unit IC in charge prior to speaking or commenting to any media about mission status, missing person, Swarm or UAS operations. In most situations, contact with the media is frowned upon and/or prohibited. In the unavoidable event you DO speak with the media, never offer “personal opinion” on the current status of mission, (stick to known facts).
- Check-in with IC, or officer/s in charge at the scene. NEVER fly without permission to do so. Flying without permission puts our reputation and professionalism at risk.
- When flying a SAR operation, keep a written flight log of time and location that you operated from. This information may be important and required from you by authorities.
- Pre-Flight Check your aircraft and all gear prior to launch.
- Know what your “survey area” will be prior to launch. There’s no benefit to searching an area thats already been searched.
- Perform a Compass Calibration. You’re in an entirely new area with new compass parameters.
- Check ALL Radio Switches/Toggles to ensure they are in the correct position prior to launch. Avoid launching “Manually” unless you are an experienced pilot with good reason to do so.
- Wait for adequate satellites, GPS and Homepoint lock prior to launch.
- Check prop adapters for proper Lock.
- Launch from an Open and Unobstructed area. Launching in dense trees or obstacles may prevent a safe Return to Home.
- When switching out battery, turn your radio off and back on again before installing fresh battery. (re-bind)
- When flying an unfamiliar area, look for “stand out landmarks” in order to find your way home again if/when your disoriented.
- Bring a Spotter/VO (visual observer) with you. That person can assist with ground safety, course navigation and mission video analysis
- Make your intention to launch loud and clear to all nearby persons prior to take-off.
- Fly in GPS mode whenever possible. This ensures that the aircraft will be stable in flight if/when you are distracted on the ground. Flying in Manual Mode allows the aircraft to “drift” potentially into a dangerous situation.
- Any and all aerial footage captured/recorded with your aircraft is the Property of the on-scene SAR unit and/or primary family contact. All recorded images should be made available same day or as soon as possible.
- Recorded Images should be thoroughly reviewed for any clues and “targets of interest” on-scene / same day or Asap.
- Multirotors: Once in the air, hover at 8′ to 10′ feet to ensure aircraft flight worthiness.
- DO NOT provide any Mission information to media, reporters or any “stranger” not directly connected to official SAR Mission.
- DO NOT Interfere with any ongoing SAR Operations or assume you have legal authority to operate a UAS without prior authorization from IC and/or Law Enforcement.
- DO NOT launch UAS when any manned aircraft are operating within 5 miles.
- DO NOT refer to Missing Person in the past tense. ie; “Deceased, Victim etc.”. Always respect the continued hope and faith of family and friends.
- DO NOT Fly in controlled airspace (without FAA waiver).
- DO NOT Fly 30 minutes past sunset or prior to sunrise (without FAA waivers).
- All Volunteer Network Members of S.W.A.R.M. are solely responsible for any and all actions in the field. Members are advised to carry (at their own discretion) UAS/aircraft, property and liability insurance in addition to AMA membership/insurance and/or VeriFly coverage etc. SWARM and/or it’s officers and administrators will not be liable or responsible for any accident, injury, negligence or physical harm caused by any network member in the operation of personal aircraft or participation in any and all SAR operations. SWARM is strictly an online resource/database for available and willing SAR volunteers. SARdrones.org and the SWARM (Search and Rescue) Facebook group and all related SOCIAL MEDIA presence exists ONLY to provide an online resource of UAS SAR related information and potential volunteers in a given community. SWSARM is not a sanctioned SAR organization. While most pilots have sufficient UAS experience with required credentials in SAR application, SWARM cannot guarantee the performance, certification or ability of any pilot or SWARM volunteer. It is at the discretion of the official SAR unit and/or Primary Family Contact to qualify any UAS Pilots or volunteers from this organization prior to their participation or assistance.
Update by: Jim Bowers 3/18 / Ed Schrader – 2/18