Some BC search and rescue teams are getting a new tool in their arsenal this year: drones.

They’ll be used in rescue operations when a helicopter isn’t available, or where the area cannot be reached by aircraft.

Emergency Management B.C. approved the pilot project, which includes search and rescue operations in Coquitlam, Kamloops, Ridge Meadows and Surrey.

“One search we responded to in Maple Ridge was down in a canyon, and it was too narrow for a helicopter to get down in there,” Mike Coyle, a manager with Coquitlam Search and Rescue, told CBC News. “[With a drone], you may be able to fly in a situation where a helicopter couldn’t.”

This isn’t the first time a B.C. search and rescue organization has embarked on a drone program. Earlier this year, North Vancouver Search and Rescue — one of the busiest search and rescue organizations in the country — added a drone to its toolkit.

“The number of calls we go on forces us to get better and to develop tools,” explained Curtis Jones, the volunteer team member who heads up the drone program, last year. “Drones are a relatively underutilized technology in BC. A number of teams have looked at it and played with it, but it’s still in that early development and proof-of-concept stage here.”

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(Photos courtesy North Shore Rescue)