Addendum to the 2024-2025 Application Guide

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Limitations on equipment funding

Equipment is a common request for SAR NIF funding, however, the SAR NIF terms and conditions specifically limits certain types of equipment as being ineligible such as vessels and vehicles; nor are capital purchases such as buildings eligible. While not specifically identified as being ineligible expenses, equipment such as communications (radios) and navigation devices (GPS) are considered to be part of the basic requirements for establishing or sustaining (i.e. replacement or upgrading) a SAR organization and are not generally regarded as “improvements” as per the intent of the SAR NIF. The purchase or construction of “command post” trailers etc. are similarly considered as basic requirements. Equipment such as this would need to be tied into a larger outcome that supports SAR NIF’s intention of greater interoperability or taking advantage of new technologies that would significantly enhance search and rescue.

SAR organizations seeking essential equipment are encouraged to look outside of the SAR NIF program for support from their local, provincial/territorial, or federal government departments through their national association.

Context for funding drones

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), and Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) or more commonly referred to as drones are a significant technological advancement in the search and rescue responders tool kit.

It is important to remember that drones by themselves are not game changers for SAR. Drones provide a platform for the use of various tools that can aid in a SAR response. It is the combination of the drones aerial platform and the tools that the drone carries that provides the benefit. These tools can include cameras such as high definition, infra-red or Forward Looking Infra-Red (FLIR); speakers, lights, devices to carry and drop equipment or supplies; or carry communications capabilities. Drones can also be programmed to fly set patterns and to work in teams with two or many drones. 

Obtaining a drone and the associated hardware, software and spare batteries, monitors, etc., is not an inexpensive endeavor. Nor is the amount of time required to acquire a drone pilot certificate, especially as SAR use usually requires the pilot to obtain their Advanced Operations certificate from Transport Canada. For those organizations seeking to fly beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) the requirements are much steeper to obtain Transport Canada’s Special Flight Operations Certificate, Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (SFOC-RPAS).

The equipment, the drone, the tools, the support equipment/software as well as the training costs are all eligible expenses in a SAR NIF project.

Why might your drone project proposal be unsuccessful?

First, the focus of SAR NIF is to improve SAR and while drones are relatively new and evolving technology, the benefits to SAR of a drone are already recognized and understood. As such drone-focused projects may miss meeting a criteria of SAR NIF that of being a new initiative. The SAR community through its own funding or SAR NIF has already demonstrated the value of drones in SAR, have endeavored to provide the basis of standard operating procedures for SAR, or have developed programs to assist SAR responders complete the training. In addition, there are organizations that provide much of these services already in the marketplace.

Second, SAR NIF projects are expected to have a national, regional, or local impact on SAR response and prevention. Projects that are national and/or regional level impacts are more favourable for SAR NIF funding. Acquiring a drone for an individual team or organization maybe a game-changer for that organization but will struggle against projects that aim to have a wider impact.

Finally, there are also concerns with the evolving nature of drone technology in terms of flight times, weight, software, and even pricing of  these tools, that while new today will become obsolete or requiring replacement in a short period thus limiting the overall impact the funding will have. This is considered a risk in the SAR NIF project review.

What might get funded by SAR NIF?

Technology continues to advance. Does your organization see a potential game-changer in how drones can be used differently in SAR? Do you see how drones can be used in SAR for new purposes? Is there an opportunity to connect current drone technology with other technologies that would enhance SAR when brought together? Is there something you see in advancing drone technology that you can do to further improve SAR?

We encourage organizations considering a drone-focused SAR NIF project to engage with a recognized SAR partner to explore your idea and discuss the potential of the project to advance SAR.

What if your organization wishes to develop drone capabilities?

While a SAR NIF grant may seem to be a fast forward means to acquiring this new capability the chances of success are dropping. Organizations looking to benefit from drones are encouraged to contact current SAR groups using drones or past SAR NIF projects to learn about how their drone capabilities are being used; what to expect in terms of initial acquisition and the ongoing costs of maintaining and updating capabilities are; and what challenges to training and skill development have those organizations overcome.

What do we do if we are seeking to acquire similar drone capabilities for our organization?

The SAR NIF is not always the right answer to funding needs. It is part of the larger SAR system and as such works to provide a mechanism to advance search and rescue. Funding for equipment procurement can come from organizational budgets with a mandate for SAR; community/corporate fund raising efforts; or other grants and contributions that may be available in your province or territory. Organizations seeking to make such advances in their own capabilities and capacity development can avail themselves of the lessons learned from others and previous SAR NIF projects.

Past SAR NIF drone-related projects

Links to past projects

Links to our Proactive Disclosure where you can find past SAR NIF projects and recipients:

Rates for travel

Please use National Joint Council Rates as guidance for determining Travel rates used for Accommodation, Meals/Incidentals and Transportation in your Budget:

Considerations for salaries in your budget

If Salaries are included in the Budget, they must be incremental to the project, e.g., a new hire or if using current personnel for project work then their previous work would need to be backfilled. The expense must also be cost-efficient, i.e., less expensive than using a contractor to do the work.

Note that Volunteers are considered incremental, and can be included in your Budget as in-kind revenues/expenditures at a rate of $25/hour.

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