During recent onsite trials in Derbyshire county in the UK an elderly man went missing. The Long Eaton police department was aware of the SeaBotix SARbot ROV trials being conducted locally and asked the local Fire & Rescue department for assistance in searching the surrounding waterways. This all transpired during the Icelandic volcano disruption and SeaBotix Director of Marketing, Jesse Rodocker was in Long Eaton and able to assist.
The report from the police department was that an elderly man approximately 84 years old had left home in the late evening and had not returned. Long Eaton is surrounded with canals, rivers and lakes. The police department began the search with a sniffing dog that led the police to overpass on the Trent River. Additionally, the missing gentleman was a known avid fisherman, thus the belief he may have fallen in the water.
With a starting location under the bridge the Long Eaton Fire & Rescue team and Jesse began the underwater search. Using the newest SARbot system, specifically developed for search and rescue/recovery Jesse and the team deployed in the zero visibility River Trent. The river was flowing rapidly near the bridge, but was not a problem for the SARbot. Visibility was zero so the fitted Tritech Gemini 720i imaging sonar was critical in navigating and searching the area.
In conjunction with the ROV search area Blueprint Technologies was conducting a boat based side scan search with their new ultra high frequency 990F StarFish side scan. The boat was deployed near Trent Lock and the team scanned all the way to the bridge where the ROV operations were being conducted. A handful of interesting targets were found with the side scan and relayed to the ROV team for verification.
The area surrounding the bridge and believed entry point into the water was search exhaustively with the SARbot and StarFish. However, the missing person was not found. It was decided to increase the search area to include Trent Lock, more of the River Trent and the Erewash canal. The SARbot ROV system was setup on a pull cart and towed down the side of the canal while Jesse piloted the ROV down the center. With the Gemini sonar the entire canal (approximately 20-25 meters wide) was scanned from Long Eaton Fire Station to Trent Lock. Once at the lock the confluence of the canal and river was searched.
Searching with the SARbot was quite simple. The ROV was positioned in the center of the river or canal and just below the surface. With forward thrust the TRIM function was used (like cruise control) and all that was required from the operator were simple left to right adjustments. All the streaming real time video, sonar and tracking data was captured to the internal PC of the Integrated Control Console (INC). As objects were discovered with the Gemini TRIM was disabled and the ROV flown to the target for visual identification. Visibility was incredibly poor, but the built in LYYN video enhancer aided in producing a clearer video image.
In addition the canal adjacent to the River Trent was searched with the same method all the way to the weir. The side scan data was processed through Chesapeake SonarWiz to create a map of the area and possible targets. Combining the side scanned data with the ROV search data it was determined that the missing person was not in the area, at least under water.
The entire search area of rivers, canals and lakes took just one day. Long Eaton police department commented that it would have taken them at least a week to cover a smaller area with divers and they still wouldn't have known for certain. In the end several days later the missing person was found on land under a bridge. The underwater searching was critical in eliminating areas of the person's possible location and helping to ultimately locate the body.