B.C. search and rescue teams may soon use unmanned air vehicles, more commonly called drones, in their search missions.

The tiny aircraft can fly in low, small spaces and are very versatile; they can be set up within ten minutes, can carry multiple cameras, including infrared cameras, and could assist various search and rescue teams.

Jeff Howe is the co-founder of North Guardian UAV which owns and operates the drones. He said the devices can efficiently cover ground to assist search crews.

"It varies but we're able to do about 20 kilometres within a matter of minutes and be able to visually see what takes place, [and] bring that live feed back to command centre where they can review the film, see if there's anything that's been missed and then move to another part," Howe said.

Asst. Chief Stu Aspinall of Coquitlam Fire Rescue said the drones could be instrumental for the fire department.

“It’s definitely another tool in the toolbox,” he said. “We can use it to see, say the roof or back side of a large building that might be on fire, there's hazardous materials applications where we need to get in and have a reading on something without actually committing any resources."

The quadracopter can run for around 20 minutes, and weather conditions play a large role in the drones’ flight duration, but financial considerations are the bigger issue.

Michael Coyle of Coquitlam Search and Rescue said drones would cost several hundred dollars per hour while a regular helicopter would be about $1800 per hour.

"Emergency Management BC decides a lot of how reimbursement works for the resources we put into the field. They have policies for the use of helicopters, they don't have policies for the use of UAVs," he said.

Emergency Management BC is expected to decide if it will go ahead with a drone pilot project soon after the SAR Scene National Conference which takes place in Chilliwack Oct. 17 to 21.

With a report from CTV British Columbia's Penny Daflos.