New technology will cut time and resources for Outer Banks search rescue crews

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OUTER BANKS, N.C. (WAVY) — Search and rescue crews on the Outer Banks are hoping a new piece of technology will help cut down on time and resources when emergencies happen.

It’s called AquaEye, a handheld side scan sonar.

“This actually looks underwater and tells us what’s there as far as hard surfaces or soft surfaces such as a human being,” said Mirek Dabrowski, the director of Surf Rescue.

For 21 years, Dabrowski has worked for Surf Rescue, which provides water rescue for multiple municipalities including the town of Duck, Southern Shores and Dare County, as well as Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

He enjoys his job because of the people he works with, as well as being able to help people, which AquaEye will continue to help them achieve.

“We’re not interested in making a lot of searches. Once you get them out and make sure they’re safe, you go home with a really good feeling,” he said.

Dabrowski says that the handheld sonar cuts down on time, which is critical during water searches and rescues.

“If we can find the subject quicker, we’re not stuck with multiple agencies searching for something that might float up or not know where it is,” he said.

Using the sonar will also help them cut down on the number of people out searching, according to Dabrowski.

“The manpower sometimes involved in a search could last a day. With multiple agencies it could involve 20 to 25 people. Whereas with this, you can see I have one person scanning and he can cover roughly 85,000 square feet in four minutes,” he said. “That’s a lot of area and it’s like almost taking a picture of that area and saying that’s where it is. If we’re in a boat and we’re just driving over the area, we might not necessarily see anything or find anything. Here’s one guy, in half an hour could cover half a million square feet. That’s a huge time saver.”

Dabrowski says the population of the Outer Banks jumps from about 32,000 to 250,000 over the summer, so they’re constantly working to keep people informed.

With a crew of 55 during peak days, he says AquaEye will help during emergencies. But to prepare, his crews are learning how to use the technology as well as mapping out canals and other waterways to familiarize themselves.

There’s also another added benefit of AquaEye. Dabrowski says it’s to keep his guys and divers safe.

“We’re not spending a ton of time in the water. It’s not clear. It’s murky. You can’t see much,” he said. “There are hazards even though they’re not hard. There are still hazardous and this prevents additional accidents.”

To learn more about AquaEye, click here.

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