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UAV SAR

Searching for

Luke Neville

Luke Neville has been missing since October 13, 2017. Learn more about the search for Luke below.

Update February 27, 2019: A website dedicated to the search for Luke Neville has been created.  Please check the Searching for Luke Neville website for more information on Luke.

We were commissioned by a client to conduct a search for Luke Neville in south-central British Columbia, near Spences Bridge this fall. Luke was reported missing to the R.C.M.P. on October 13, 2017. This is an active investigation.

Initial UAV Search Mission

A comprehensive UAV flight mission plan was developed to survey an area of interest that was inaccessible to helicopters and fixed wing aircraft, and to people on the ground, without safety equipment for fall arrest and repelling.

This area of interest is located at Nicomen Falls, British Columbia, within the Nicomen Indian Band territory.


UAV Aerial Search Mission

Nicomen Falls, British Columbia

The Nicomen Band members were very helpful and supportive of our search for Luke. They provided information about the local area, and how to get around the many, winding logging roads around the plateau. We took care during the mission to respect the Nicomen Band’s territory.

The topography around Nicomen Falls is breathtaking; literally. Imagine crawling to the edge of a shear cliff and peering over the edge; vertigo is the best way to describe the 55-metre drop. That and the sound of the Nicomen falls pounding at the earth through the gorge made feel more alive working at this location.

While we did not find any objects of interest, we were relieved to eliminate one potential location where Luke might be found. The video will give you a good idea of how dangerous this search would be with boots on the ground.

Coincidence

A few days after we completed the UAV search mission at Nicomen falls, we were contacted by a group called Wings of Mercy. This group is dedicated to using unmanned aerial vehicles to search for missing persons. Our client had not contacted Wings of Mercy, nor anyone else that was aware of our UAV search mission for Luke; this was a completely coincidental communication. They enquired if we were interested in volunteering our services to search for Ryan Shtuka near Sun Peaks, British Columbia. We have agreed to volunteer time to assist with this search mission.

To make a long story short, we are now members of Wings of Mercy, a group which can be found on Facebook. They have several active volunteer projects ongoing. Please take the time to see what they are about and follow the group. This is a worth-while cause.

How Searching for Missing People using UAV’s Works

Mapping missions are conducted using unmanned aerial vehicles. The basis of this is that aerial images are captured with the camera facing straight down, with at least 10% overlap on the images. Several thousand images could be captured in under one hour. Once the images were captured, they would be reviewed one-by-one to see if any objects of interest could be found.

This is a very tedious process. A person can only look at so many aerial photographs before they needed a break, small details can be easily missed, and the task is very time consuming.

Recent Improvements

Wings of Mercy have developed some very useful proprietary software that can identify ranges of colours in photographs based on a colour pallet. The software scans through a set of photos, using pre-defined colour pallets, like the colour of a piece of clothing for example, to locate objects of interest. This technology has been proven to work for this application.

What Information We Have

We have spoken with the R.C.M.P. detective handling this case. As this is an active investigation, the R.C.M.P. are not able to share any information that may affect the case. The only information we were able to receive are a couple of locations of interest; starting points for a UAV search.
Areas of interest were searched by law enforcement and search and rescue using canines and conventional aerial methods. Neither method came up with positive results.

Continuing the Search Mission: How You Can Help

We will be starting a crowd funder, spring of 2019. The purpose of the crowd funder is to generate donations which are used for cost of fuel and minor expenses, so other UAV operators can assist with the search for Luke Neville. All time spent on this search mission by Firefox Enterprises personnel will be paid for by the company. The crowd funder is strictly being created to encourage other UAV operators to help with this search mission.

If you are interested in joining us on the search for Luke, please use the contact form on our website, and select the “UAV SAR” topic in the dropdown box.

More information will be provided on the scope of the search mission, search locations, sizes of search areas, coordination of activities, scheduling, UAV operator experience requirements, transportation requirements, UAV safety, rules for working on indigenous lands and environmental protection in the spring of 2019.

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