Unique collaboration between drones and helicopters during a massive rescue operation. Europe’s largest drone operation after deadly landslide in Norway. 420 missions and 200 hours of airtime.13 people were rescued from the collapsed houses and the rubble in the still moving landslide the first few hours after the catastrophe hit the small village of Ask, Gjerdrum in Eastern Norway on 30 December 2020. Both helicopters and drones have played a major role in the search and rescue operation in Ask. Heat-seeking drones and helicopters were cooperating after a 2000 feet long quick clay landslide hit the small village. More than a 1000 people were evacuated.
13 people were rescued from the collapsed houses and the rubble in the still moving landslide the first few hours after the catastrophe hit the small village. The same evening the number of missing people was down to ten.
For weeks after the disaster, drones were seen patrolling the devastated village of Ask in Gjerdum, a small municipality in Eastern Norway for weeks. The landslide that hit the village at 4 a.m. on 30 December 2020 was 300 yards wide and more than 2000 feet in length and left a gaping hole in the beautiful landscape, burying 31 homes. Seven people were found dead, and three of the inhabitants are still not accounted for.
Massive rescue operation
The rescue operation was a massive undertaking, with military personnel from the elite force Derby, the Lockheed P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft, as well as several helicopters: Bell 412, AgustaWestland AW101, the police helicopter Leonardo AW169 and SeaKing helicopters. In addition, at least 30 search teams with dogs participated, rescue teams from Oslo Fire Department, local fire crews, the National Brigade, the Swedish USAR special crew and 25 ambulances. In addition: Police and fire department drones with heat seeking capability. To say the task of coordinating all these units was a challenge, is a huge understatement.
First on the scene: A police helicopter
An hour after the landslide hit Ask, the first helicopter arrived at the disaster site; a Leonardo AW169 police helicopter, flown by pilot Lars Ribe-Aakre. The police tactical unit Delta’s drone was quickly launched as well, but due to the rough and cold weather conditions, the drone had to be taken down for a while. Soon, other aircraft, among them several drones arrived, but the first few hours, the air was reserved for helicopter rescue operations. All communication was done over radio link.
-We are used to creating our own separation towards other aircraft, police helicopter pilot Ribe-Aakre says. It usually works well, and that was the case during our stay in Ask too, he adds.
-The controlling of the drone resources were done old-fashioned and orally by standing next to each other overlooking the sunken landslide area, says Jørgen Lunde Ronge, drone project manager for the Norwegian police.
The police established a no-fly zone, exept for medical transport, search and rescue, military and police. Later that morning, a military resource from Rygge Airfield was set up; JTAC, which controlled all air traffic in the area. Usually, they control military air traffic, and have competence in the field. The whole operation was operated manually. The police controlled the drone resources, while the military JTAC resource controlled the helicopters.
Nedre Romerike Fire and Rescue Several controlled several drones equipped with thermal cameras, which made it possible to spot people and animals in the rubble.
Drone pilot Kenny Åserud was at home when he was called in.
-My wife is a nurse, and she got at catastrophe call-in at the same time as I was called in. I understood that something serious had happened, Åserud says.
-When we arrived, the situation was complex and difficult to grasp. But when we got our first drone up, we started to understand the scope of the catastrophe.
Later that day, several drones also took to the air. Many helicopters were flying rescue missions while drones did a lot of surveillance tasks. The deadly landslide generates over 420 drone missions and 200 hours of airtime collaborating with helicopters during a massive rescue operation.
Operators from both the police, fire departments and the army were flying drones, as well as one civil pilot from Andøya Space participate in Europe’s most extensive drone operation ever.