There is an article on CNN about the increasing use of Unmanned Ariel Vehicles (UAV). The article mentions civilian uses but only brushes on them. I'd be interested in exploring the capabilities of remotely controlled helicopters in SAR applications. For the places I can think of using them they would need several miles of range, the ability to return to base on their own, a fuel supply for at least an hour at a time, the ablity to have video and infra-red imaging systems on them and to have the video controlled remotely as well and fed back to a remote station. It would be great to hear from some folks who have ideas on what is possible and how this could work.
I've thought it might be better in some cases with a remotely controlled lighter than air craft, but this would be much more dependent upon proper conditions (i.e. a lack of a windy place). On the eastern slopes of the Rockies we're rarely involved in a search with such conditions. However such an application may be better suited for urban situations where the noise and safety issues associated with radio controlled helicopters