Gemma Alcock, BU alumna

Bournemouth University design graduate Gemma Alcock is shaping the future of search and rescue with pioneering research into the use of drone technology.

Gemma began her award-winning research in the final year of her design degree, and has gone on to launch a company dedicated to advancing life-saving drones. 

Having created initial designs for a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle), Gemma believed her next steps would be to develop the product and take it to market. However, she quickly realised that the market was not yet ready for the new technology and has since set about providing the evidence and training required for effective use of UAVs in search and rescue.

In 2017, Gemma’s company, SkyBound Rescuer, staged the world’s first demonstration of an air crash drone rescue at the Emergency Services Show at the NEC. The demonstration – delivered with the support of Professional Rescue SAR Academy and Aerones – involved one drone searching for and locating casualties, with another drone carrying a life raft weighing 60kg, ahead of rescue crews arriving on the scene. The demonstration will help Gemma to promote her own drone awareness course, which has already been used by agencies including Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service to set up its drone capability.

Watch SkyBound Rescuer’s video, demonstrating how drones could save lives that couldn’t be saved before.

Gemma’s research is focused on finding aerial solutions in four key environments; night searches, mountain rescue, maritime, and urban search and rescue. While drones cannot yet complete a rescue operation, they can provide vital information on an environment before teams go in, pinpoint the location of a casualty, or even supply the resources needed to stabilise casualties before other services arrive.