Search Drone Development

Posted by: Fred on Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Several of the volunteer Norton Search Team members here in the U.S. have been burning the midnight oil working on the design and development of a search drone and also with the search investigation work. Our team continues to grow, with additional engineers, scientists, pilots, search technicians, weather specialists and machinists, all bringing their expertise to the effort. We are gathering additional evidence related to the search effort that might help in any way with flight simulations and planning. The goal is to combine everything we know into a multi-layered computer model to help narrow down and determine the most critical zones to search next. We are including such things as; Norton's flight plans, communications, eyewitness accounts, ground and air search data, weather conditions at 15 minute intervals, multiple flight simulations, historical flight patterns from Bob's log books, physical constraints of the aircraft and terrain data into the model. Many pieces of intel are still being gathered from Venezuela and being interpreted.

Our next big event is coming up in the first week of June. We are taking several members of the team to present the search effort to the National Association for Search and Rescue (NASAR) at their annual conference in Sparks, Nevada. Following the presentation at NASAR we will be traveling to Yosemite to meet with members of National Park Service SAR teams to conduct our second Norton Search Summit. Team members attending these two events include:

Bob Edwards – Team Lead

JD Brown – Lead Analyst

Edan Cain – UAV Team Lead

Rick Slatten – Containment Analyst

Dr. Garcia – Director of Venezuelan Civil Protection agency for the Bolivar state

Andrehina Diaz – Coordinator for Bolivar's Civil Protection

Roberto Espinoza – Manager for Servicia Aero (State of Bolivar Aviation support)

Dan Cassidy – Event Coordinator

We will lay the groundwork for our modified containment analysis and begin planning our next trip to Venezuela.

We are also making steady progress on the development of the search drone. This is a very complex project in that we need to not only design, build and test the drone, we also must have permissions and permits in place before we take the drone to Venezuela. We are working with the governmental agencies to obtain clearance and guidance. The key elements of the search drone include; a test drone for development (see attached picture), a flight computer and programming flight controls and auto pilot functions, engine specification and purchase, flight stabilization, power demands for on-board sensors, communications from drone to base camp, GPS tracking, digital imaging in high def video, pics and infrared all with geo-tagging for location identification, collision avoidance, a sensor array and hopefully radar. We have many different team members working on the individual pieces of this project and we conduct weekly Skype conference calls to help with coordination of the effort.

In addition to all this work, the team has decided to establish a not-for-profit organization to continue this effort and to develop search drone technologies and field support operations that can be used for this and other search and rescue operations in the future.

I am continually humbled by the dedication of the team for this search effort for Bob, Neiba and the others. This team has conducted satellite image analysis, conducted a search summit, containment analysis, flight simulations, search planning, made two trips to Venezuela, met twice in Texas with Venezuelan search teams at Texas A&M, met with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Search and Rescue Technology team, and is currently working with Select Tech Services, a drone technology company. In addition we have conducted numerous interviews and followed countless leads as we pull together all the information available for the search plan.

Over the past two years many organizations have donated equipment and services to assist with the search effort. A “Special Thanks” page is included on our web site and their logos will be on the side of the drone to show our appreciation. In addition, people have donated much needed financial support to help with the search effort. Below is the breakdown of how those donations have been carefully used. We apply discounts like Delta “Buddy Passes” to fly to Venezuela and we stay at inexpensive hotels (one in La Paragua, Venezuela cost us $10/night) or at friends' homes on the couch or floor to save money. We appreciate the financial assistance that many of you have provided over the past two years. Here is a breakout, by category, of how the money has been spent.

+$24,067 Donations over past two years ($23,067 through OCI + $1000 not thru OCI)

-$3052 Support for supplies and expenses for ground search team in Venezuela

-$250 Equipment for processing satellite images (external hard drives)

-$1539 Search Summit I in Georgia (included two from Venezuela search team)

-$3229 Venezuela Trip 1 to investigate satellite image “points of interest”

-$4627 Venezuela Trip 2 to assist jungle search team in priority Zone D

-$1500 Assistance for Nytta Norton (Bob's mom) to go to Venezuela

-$612 Trip to Texas 1 to meet with Civil Protection leadership in 2009 (Search Planning)

-$586 Trip to Texas 2 to meet with Civil Protection leadership in 2010 (Drone Planning)

-$185 Trip to Select Tech in Dayton, OH (Drone design)

-$882 Trip to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center (Radar / Drone presentation)

-$2305 Radar Drone design / development / build

-$534 Administrative expenses (Skype calls, copies, Paypal fees, website, etc.)

-$1260 Documentary expenses

$3500 Approximate amount remaining in OCI Search Account

Our up coming trip to Sparks, Nevada and Yosemite for the NASAR presentation and the Search Summit II in June will cost the team approximately $3200. In addition we need help with the expenses for the design and development of the search drone. We are asking for assistance from anyone who is able and willing to help and we appreciate any amount given for the effort. Please send your tax deductible donations to Outpost Centers International (OCI) through their website at www.outpostcenters.org or by mailing to 5340 Layton Lane, Apison, TN 37302. It is VERY important to mark the donation “Norton Search” so they will credit it to our account. Thanks in advance for your support.

You can follow the development of the drone, investigation, upcoming documentary and other activities on our website: www.findingbobnorton.org (follow the RED “update” links from the home page for our most recent activities).

And so with incredible dedication . . . this team presses ahead . . .

Bob Edwards

Drone prototype rear and side view

Top view of Drone Prototype

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