The storage area of a gravel
pit. Acre upon acre of loose
piles of dangerous footing
for ground searchers. Not a
problem for ELLASS.

The extremely hazardous
environment presented by
quarry walls would be a
nightmare for people on
foot. ELLASS can cover
these areas quickly and

Finding a person in a corn-
field, on foot, is an exersize
in frustration. From the air
the task is much easier.

The bottom of ponds are
clearly visible from the air.

What is ELLASS?
ELLASS stands for Emergency Low Level Aerial Search and Surveillance. It's a service which enhances the search and rescue capabilities of police, fire departments and search & rescue teams.

How does ELLASS enhance their capabilities?
A person is missing; the clock is ticking... Time is of the essence. The police and fire departments are contacted, search & rescue teams are organized, grids plotted, and the search personel set out.

These are the tried and true methods used to locate missing persons. Now search & rescue teams have another resource they can use: ELLASS. When ELLASS is called in, a low level aerial search team can cover the grids much more efficiently from the air, in coordination with the ground teams, allowing the manpower on the ground to be utilized much more efficiently.

What advantages are offered by ELLASS?
Currently the choices for low level aerial search are either light planes or helicopters. While both have advantages, they also have drawbacks when searching for signs of missing people:
  • Light airplanes, even at only 50 or 60 miles per hour, fly too fast to allow thorough low level ground surveillance. Also, airplanes aren't designed for the people inside to look straight down. Therefore the planes must fly in a "banked" manner, a very inefficient way to fly, or search while flying in circles.

  • Helicopters are much better for locating missing persons, as they can fly slowly, hover, and offer excellent fields of view. The major drawback to helicopters is their operational and maintenance expenses, ranging from $150 to $300 an hour.
By using two seat powerchute craft, a thorough aerial surveillance may be performed while simultaneously training students to fly. These are a few of the advantages of using powerchutes:
  • One person (from ELLASS) is the pilot, and acts as a second set of eyes, while the second occupant, a student pilot, and preferably someone from the local area who has a thorough knowledge of the area to be searched, is both learning to fly as well as searching for the missing person. Both persons have a virtually unobstructed view.

  • The craft moves at only 30 miles per hour, 1/3 to 1/2 the speed of an airplane, allowing a thorough search.

  • In addition to its slow speed, the craft is capable of flying very low if necessary, to be certain nothing is missed. Trying to search the ground from higher than a few hundred feet is almost useless. An airplane only a few hundred feet off the ground is moving too fast.

  • Support for the craft is minimal, and it can take off and land in almost any open space a few hundred feet long. No airports, long landing strips, or high maintenance as with helicopters.

How does ELLASS fit into an existing infrastructure?
ELLASS can work in a coordinated effort with the ground search teams, flying a crisscross grid search pattern guided by GPS which assures that the area searched is covered methodically and thoroughly. The man-hours efficiency of the ELLASS search is clearly demonstrated in this example:
  • Area to be searched: 5 square miles.
  • Time to search it by ELLASS in a crisscross grid with double coverage in 500 foot wide sweeps: 8 hours. Man hours: 16 (2 men used.) If 2 powerchutes are flown simultaneously, then 4 men are used and the search time drops to 4 hours, and the man hours remains the same.
  • Time to search the same area by foot, double sweep, using men spaced at 100 foot intervals: 4 hours. Man hours: 212 (53 men used).
Clearly the extra man hours could be put to better use searching in places that aerial surveillance cannot reach, such as inside homes, caves, culverts, sewers, dumpsters, shopping centers and malls, etc...

The previous example also assumes a "best case" scenario, where the terrain is fairly open and easy to traverse. The photos to the left show terrain which would be very time consuming, as well as very dangerous to search by foot. Yet ELLASS would be able to search these areas quickly and safely.

What equipment is used?
ELLASS craft are outfitted with:
  • Complete communications gear, allowing contact with ground search teams, as well as other aircraft and airport control towers.
  • GPS, allowing the ELLASS craft to search in grids, as well as provide the means for reporting exact positions on the ground if potential evidence, or the object of the search is located.
  • High-powered binoculars, allowing the ELLASS crew to "zoom in" on the terrain.

Once additional funding is available, the ELLASS craft may also be outfitted with:
  • Frame-mounted video cameras, recording a 360o view of the area searched. The tapes may then be viewed by ground personnel for anything missed in the initial search.
  • Transmitting capability for the video cameras, allowing ground personnel to view on monitors, in real-time, the area searched by ELLASS. This means that ELLASS will be providing a platform for additional sets of eyes to thoroughly comb the search area, assuring nothing is overlooked.
  • Infrared and thermal detection equipment, providing a means for ELLASS to locate missing persons who are hidden under brush, in tall vegetation, or even in shallow holes.
Are there weather limitations?
Yes. Wind is the main "limiting" factor. Winds of over 15 miles per hour make flying conditions hazardous, and the decision of whether or not to lift off is made by the pilot(s) on the scene.

Other conditions which keep powerchutes on the ground are rain, snow and fog. Powerchutes and inclement weather don't mix.

Powerchutes are not allowed to fly at night. If outfitted with an aerial strobe, it is permissable to lift off 30 minutes before sunrise, and land up to 30 minutes after sunset.

Lastly, powerchutes are not allowed to fly over "congested" areas of towns or cities.

Where is ELLASS available?
The goal is to eventually have ELLASS chapters in every state. To achieve that, we are developing procedures and protocols by working with police, fire departments and search & rescue teams. However, if you are in need of the services provided by ELLASS, no matter where you are located, contact us immediately and we'll do our best to arrive on scene as quickly as possible.

More about ELLASS
ELLASS, a project of the PowerChute Education Foundation, Inc. (an IRS approved 501(c)(3) publicly supported tax exempt non-profit organization), exists to provide emergency low level aerial search and surveillance services in support of ground search and rescue teams looking for missing persons. (Or anything that's missing, for that matter....)

Copyright © 2003 PowerChute Education Foundation, Inc.. All Right Reserved.
ELLASS is a project of the PowerChute Education Foundation, Inc.,
a 501(c)(3) tax exempt non-profit educational and charitable organization.