To better understand searching with a paramotor I decided to do a training run on a nearby field. Here is the data I collected.
Search Area: Approx. 900 Acres Corn and Soybeans. Obion River along West edge.
Obstructions: Power lines running East/West 1/4 mile inside North edge of field.
Weather: Clear with winds 5-15 from the South
Time: Takeoff Approx. 18:30 Landing 19:30 local time
Search pattern: Spiral from outside to inside
Search results: Incomplete, area not cleared
I approached the area to be searched from the North West corner. First scanning for obstructions. Power lines found inside North edge of area.
I decided to start at the perimeter and spiral inward as there are ditches/creeks/river surrounding the field.
Wind was a large factor. I started the first pass at a higher altitude (100′) to get a feel for the mechanical rotor in the area. Moving North to South I averaged 15MPH. South to North I averaged 30-35 MPH.
I was able to conduct most of my search just below treetop height. I did find several deer to use as visual references. They were easy to pick out from above, even when they laid down in the beans. Finding recent deer trails through the beans was not easy but it was possible.
From 50′ I was able to see through the corn to the ground in most, not all, areas. I could do this in an area approx. 15-20 corn rows wide at that altitude.
I could see into culverts and under small bridges around the field but not well enough to call them cleared.
Searching the Ditch to the North, River to the West and creek to the South was done easily. Tree cover is limited in those areas.
There is a creek on the Eastern edge of the field I could not see into due to heavy tree cover.
The railroad tracks indicated on the topo map are actually a gravel road that offers access through the field.
I needed one more pass to cover the area, I chose to abort the search due to degrading weather conditions (Gusts becoming heavier and from less predictable directions).
As a searcher I need practice keeping my paths separated. I wasted time recovering the same ground in a few spots. I also experimented with spotting small objects and then turning back for a closer look. I found it very difficult to pick back up on an object (soda can size) after losing sight of it.
I also think a down and back pattern moving from West to East might have been a better approach to this area. If the subject was trying to avoid the searcher they would be likely stopped at the river on the Eastern edge which could then be easily covered.