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Oklahoma Civil Air Patrol Tests Drone Search Capabilities

November 25, 2019

by 2nd Lt. Eric Holtzclaw, CAP, Oklahoma Wing

Top: (L-R) 2nd Lt. Raymond Cope, Cadet Senior Airman Angeleena Sowell and Maj. Rick Gorman watch as 2nd Lt. Jeremiah Blasi demonstrates the operation of a sUAS with SM Frank Hooper, Capt. Will Brassfield, 2nd Lt Cindy Clark and Cadet Airman 1st Class Justin Quinton observing. (Photo: 2nd Lt. Eric Holtzclaw, CAP, Oklahoma Wing)


STROUD, Okla. – On November 16, 2019, the Muskogee, Enid, Tulsa, Edmond, and Grove Composite Squadrons of Civil Air Patrol participated in the first ever Oklahoma sUAS (Small Unmanned Aerial System) training exercise in Stroud, Oklahoma. “The unit members were evaluated on their ability to assess and locate damaged facilities, unconscious hikers in deep woods, mapping operations and link ground support teams in rescue efforts,” said Public Affairs Officer Maj. Jason Unwin, of the Muskogee Composite Squadron, who was the project coordinator and heads the Oklahoma Wing’s training efforts.

The exercise entailed a large-scale grid mapping assessment of a simulated water dam collapse and immediate surveying efforts to determine how to best repair it. Team members were also faced with mapping a mostly dense forest area to locate a stranded and unconscious hiker. Because of the dense forest line, the pilot and technician trainees were tasked with mapping the area from overhead and then returning to base camp to evaluate the data and photography, downloading the images to mapping software to transform them into readable photos which could be scrutinized individually to search for the hiker. Once the hiker was located, the coordinates were given to a ground search team and, after a quick deployment, the hiker was reached and assistance given.

The sUAS view of Stroud lake, the site of the simulated dam collapse. (Photo: 2nd Lt. Eric Holtzclaw, CAP, Oklahoma Wing)



“It was great to be part of this kind of training,” said Cadet Senior Airman Angeleena Sowell. “I feel that drone missions more and more are the future of what the Civil Air Patrol will do in searching for lost persons and getting close looks at things after storm damages.”

“All in all, the exercise was a success. We learned a lot and noted several areas where we can improve and fine tune,” said Edmond Composite Squadron Assistant Operations Officer Maj. Rick Gorman, the evaluator for the exercise. 

  “It is our hope to fully staff at least 10 sUAS teams across the state, which would include pilot and technicians to add to the Oklahoma Wing’s search, rescue and disaster recovery efforts,” said Unwin. “Bringing the sUAS capabilities will save money, time and provide a broader capability that, sometimes, manned fixed aircraft cannot do,” he continued.

Top: (L-R, foreground) SM Frank Hooper demonstrates sUAS operations to Cadets Senior Airman Angeleena Sowell and Airman 1st Class Justin Quinton with 2nd Lt. Raymond Cope and 2nd Lt. Jeremiah Blasi in the background. (Photo: 2nd Lt. Eric Holtzclaw, CAP, Oklahoma Wing) 


Unwin explained that Oklahoma has several squadrons in the training and development phase of using sUAS. The need for trained sUAS pilots, and a commitment by volunteer senior members is critical. He also mentioned that there are prerequisites that must be met before CAP will allow the use of drones, but the applications are widespread and vital. Drones can be used for search and recovery, mapping and damage assessment after storms, photography, and reconstruction analysis. A sUAS has many advantages over larger manned fixed-wing aircraft, although there are some limitations because sUAS may not be viable in every situation. The sUAS skills can be learned and are not necessarily as physically demanding as other positions within CAP. We are always looking for qualified and motivated volunteers who want to help their community.

Follow the adventures of the Oklahoma Wing Civil Air Patrol at Facebook.com/OKWGCAP.


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Civil Air Patrol, the longtime all-volunteer U.S. Air Force auxiliary, is the newest member of the Air Force’s Total Force. In this role, CAP operates a fleet of 560 aircraft, performs about 90 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and is credited by the AFRCC with saving an average of more than 80 lives annually. CAP’s 66,000 members also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. In addition, CAP plays a leading role in aerospace/STEM education, and its members serve as mentors to over 28,000 young people participating in CAP’s Cadet Programs. Visit www.GoCivilAirPatrol.com or www.CAP.news for more information.

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