Identification of landing sites for rescue helicopters in mountains with use of Geographic Information Systems Identification of landing sites for rescue helicopters in mountains with use of Geographic Information Systems

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Vol17 No.2: 261-270

Title】Identification of landing sites for rescue helicopters in mountains with use of Geographic Information Systems

Author】KROH Paweł

Addresses】Institute of Geography, Pedagogical University of Cracow, ul. Podchorazych 2, 30-084 Cracow, Poland

Corresponding author】KROH Paweł

Citation】Kroh P (2020) Identification of landing sites for rescue helicopters in mountains with use of Geographic Information Systems. Journal of Mountain Science 17(2). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11629-019-5805-0

DOI】https://doi.org/10.1007/s11629-019-5805-0

Abstract】Helicopters are often used in mountain rescue both for rescuers moving in the area of accidents and for evacuating victims, but in steep or forested terrain finding a landing place can be problematic. The main aim of this research is to use Digital Elevation Model (DEM) and cartographic database analysis to select locations that can be used as landing site for the rescue helicopters. Methods were based on GIS analysis; both raster and vector data were used for identifying touchdown points for rescue helicopters. Based on DEM data, locations with a low slope gradient were identified; topographic vector data were used for identifying unforested sites. Then buffer zones for buildings and power lines were excluded, and it was checked whether the areas had any topographic features that prevented helicopter landings. The findings were verified on an orthophotomap. In result, GIS analyses have selected 1232 polygons that fulfilled initial criteria. Their verification on orthophotomap has shown that only
55% of them could be potentially used as landing site. Landing sites can be found mainly on side ridges of mountain ranges and in valley beds, when those on ridges are most important in this research. The greatest difficulties and methodological challenges are posed by: identification of sites having a shape which prevents landing, the obsolescence of data due to environment dynamics, the presence of features that are not shown on maps but prevent helicopter landings. A map of landing sites is a very useful tool to conduct rescue operations, but each use of a given landing site requires both in-field and numerical verification. The analysis demonstrated that GIS tools are useful in pre-planning of rescue missions, and also showed that such data must be kept up-to-date and in-field verification is needed continuously, the more so as it plays an important role in ensuring the safety of rescuers and victims.

Keywords】Helicopter mountain rescue; Geographic Information Systems; Digital Elevation Model; Topographic databases; Landing sites; Geoinformation