Search and rescue (SAR) operations encompass the search for and provision of aid to people or objects that are in distress or imminent danger. SAR operations involve large ground teams, a centralized coordination and preferably aerial assistance. Traditionally, aerial assistance was provided by camera equipped helicopters that enable overviews of the search area and communicate the camera feed to the ground team.
Unmanned aircraft systems provide a cheaper, safer way to incorporate aerial assistance in SAR operations. These systems can be readily available due to their modest size, provide normal as well as thermal images, which can be downlinked real time enabling direct implementation and do not interfere with the operation as a result of their low noise footprint.
In July 2014, Frein told Hornbaker, friends, and parents that he was moving to Delaware to work at a chemical company. Police speculate that he might have taken this time to make the preparations that later would allow him to survive and evade capture.
The police manhunt grew from nearly 200 officers by September 17 to 400 officers by September 22 to nearly 1000 on September 24. Law enforcement officers included local police, state police forces from Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey, FBI, U.S. Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Though tracking dogs were regarded as a valuable tool, particularly on damp, calm days when scent dissipates most slowly, Frein successfully evaded them using “water crossings and terrain conditions.”
Equipment included numerous police vehicles, armored BearCats, at least four helicopters with thermal imaging equipment, and a 13,000-pound, $245,000 Ring Power armored siege vehicle dubbed “The Rook”.
Hiding out & Route:
Those who want to stay hidden from FLIRs are developing countermeasures, of course. Back on the ground, I asked Burdette about some of their preferred techniques. “People are definitely catching on,” he said. “They’ll rub mud all over themselves, like that movie ‘Predator,’ or they’ll wrap themselves up in pool covers to mask their heat signature.”
I laughed. “Does that work?”
I was expecting him to laugh along with me, but after a slight hesitation, he said: “It does work — except a little bit of light starts to shine out of each end. Once they’ve been in there for a while, the temperature builds up, like it starts to cook a little. That’s how we find them.”