South Dakota Wing Exercises Search Drones
(Rapid City) — Black Hills squadrons of Civil Air Patrol (CAP) conducted training in the use of search drones Saturday, April 10, in Rapid City. The drones, officially called small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS), are among the CAP’s newest capabilities in its role as Air Force Auxiliary.
“Our exercise simulated a lost teenager who was hiking to a lake near a residential area on the edge of Rapid City,” said exercise commander Col. Mike Beason, CAP. “The search terrain was a challenge since there was a 150-ft drop from the start of the trail to the lake.
CAP can use sUAS flights to support state, tribal and national agencies with missing person searches and damage assessment. Beason said that the exercise was designed so that the sUAS would be out of the pilots’ visual contact while it was over the lake however the sUAS technicians on the ground teams followed the flight path of the sUAS, tracking it and coordinating with the pilots by CAP radio systems.
“The exercise was not just about flying a small unmanned vehicle,” said Beason. “It was comprehensive training on the roles many CAP members would play in actual sUAS search and damage assessment missions.”
The sUAS pilots for the exercise were Beason and Ryan Jones, CAP senior member. The ground team was headed by 2nd. Lt. Jacob Roth. Lt. Col. Buck DeWeese was safety officer. Also attending were: Lt. Col. Bill Collister, Capt. Malissa Niles, 2nd. Lt. Byron Aultmann, C/Airman 1st Class Aydin Hoefler (Rushmore Composite Squadron) and C/Airman 1st Class Stephen Kroetch (Lookout Mountain Composite Squadron).
Nationally, Civil Air Patrol has 2,000 sUAS drones and a growing number of qualified pilots and technicians. CAP complies with all FAA regulations and state laws about unmanned aircraft.