Chandler Griffin is known among RC modelers as the owner of Like90, a company that markets high-quality micro helicopter accessories and rotor blades. Like90 is also heavily invested in development work for commercial and military unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Chandler’s latest effort is this unique vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) UAV equipped with both video and GPS downlink telemetry. The aerial robot is surprisingly sophisticated. Starting with an off-the-shelf RC helicopter, Chandler proceeded to customize the rotor system and airframe to maximize performance for search and rescue work. The UAV incorporates a video module that can be attached or detached in the field within a few seconds. The video camera mount incorporates both pan and tilt control, and is operated by a second person so that the pilot can concentrate on flying the UAV. GPS data is overlaid on the video screen for tracking position and to orient ground crews with respect to areas of interest. The UAV is powered with lithium polymer batteries and a brushless motor. It has a maximum airborne duration of over 40 minutes.
In early September, Chandler was deployed into the field to help with search and rescue efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Working with the Center for Robot Assisted Search and Rescue (CRASAR) and the State of Florida Emergency Operations Center (EOC), Chandler performed aerial surveys of coastal Mississippi and Louisiana. A typical mission involved flying downwind from an empty house foundation while looking for survivors or casualties in the debris field. Their efforts resulted in the successful rescue of a number of people.