Underwater search and rescue reaches new levels

An underwater and surface water search and rescue package developed in conjunction with Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service could provide immense benefits for police underwater search teams, particularly where the area is unknown, vast or perceived as too dangerous to send down a diver, such as a disused quarry.

Oct 28, 2010
By Paul Jacques
Adam Commons

An underwater and surface water search and rescue package developed in conjunction with Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service could provide immense benefits for police underwater search teams, particularly where the area is unknown, vast or perceived as too dangerous to send down a diver, such as a disused quarry.

The SARbot™ package has been designed to resolve problems locating and rescuing persons in challenging conditions.

Launched in June at the National Fire and Rescue Show 2010, Harrogate, SARbot™ is a remotely-operated vehicle (ROV) rescue package, specifically designed for speed and ease of deployment.

The SARbot™ also has a mechanical arm which can securely grip a person via a 100kg working load, allowing onshore personnel to pull the person to shore.

The complete search and rescue package was developed in partnership with SeaBotix, San Diego, manufacturers of small ROVS, and Tritech International Ltd, which specialise in the production of high-performance acoustic sensors, sonars, video cameras and mechanical tooling equipment.

Although Fire and Rescue Service teams have the ability to be on location in response to an emergency in under ten minutes, they are unable to work below the water. The SARbot™ allows for rescue in underwater and surface water search and rescue operations, where until now, remote-operated technology has been used to recover only drowning victims, not rescue.

Improved medical studies have shown that a person experiencing near drowning in water up to 21C has the potential for rescue. If the victim can be rescued from the water within approximately 90 minutes, there is a good chance that the residual oxygen in their body will keep them alive without permanent damage to their vital organs.

The intelligent technology onboard SARbot™, a modified LBV (Little Benthic Vehicle) system, includes Tritech’s forward looking, multibeam high-resolution imaging sonar, Gemini 720i. Low visibility conditions often restrict effective underwater search and rescue, however, Gemini 720i provides clear, real-time sonar imagery which enables rapid response scanning of underwater environments.

The SARbot™ package includes Tritech’s new high-frequency StarFish 990F side scan sonar. StarFish 990F can be towed from any vessel and provides high-definition sonar imagery for target identification, saving time by pinpointing locations for diving teams and the SARbot™. StarFish can cover hundreds of metres of an underwater search area, in a relatively short period of time.

Mike Broadbent, Tritech International, comments: “We are proud to be involved in such a pioneering project for SAR (search and rescue). This is indeed a new application for Tritech’s innovative products and demonstrates the application of our commercial products to the benefit of non-commercial enterprises, which will potentially help save many lives.”

Jesse Rodocker, SeaBotix, added: “The Tritech Gemini 720i imaging sonar is a critical component of the SARbot™, enabling rescue teams to locate and rescue the drowning person more rapidly than previously thought possible. Without the Gemini, rescue teams are flying blind.”

Tritech International Ltd, Peregrine Road, Westhill, Aberdeen AB32 6JL.
Tel: +44 (0)1224 744111
Fax: +44 (0)1224 741771
Email: sales@tritech.co.uk
Web: www.tritech.co.uk

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