A BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) helicopter will now be able to better assist critically-ill patients in the Okanagan thanks to a recent night vision upgrade. (Photo - Summit Helicopters)

Okanagan air ambulance receives approval to use night vision in rescue situations

BCEHS says this will benefit critically-ill or injured patients who require transport late at night

The eyes in the sky just got glasses; the BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) helicopter in the Okanagan will now be able to better assist critically-ill patients thanks to a recent night vision upgrade.

BCEHS explained in a release that this will benefit critically-ill or injured patients who require care and transport in central B.C., as well as patients at the scene of emergencies.

This new upgrade will allow pilots and their paramedic crews to safely transport patients in low light. While night visual flight rules still apply, this new tech will make it much easier and safer for pilots to navigate.

Now, all four BCEHS helicopters around the province, operated by Summit Helicopters and contracted by BCEHS, are outfitted with night vision imaging. For seven years, Summit Helicopters has been operating a dedicated helicopter on contract with BCEHS.

Even in extremely dark conditions, there are tiny bits of light present. BCEHS explained that some of this light may be infrared light that isn’t visible to the naked eye. Night vision goggles, using image enhancement technology, collect all the available light, including infrared light, and amplify it so that the pilot can see in the dark.

“This equipment is a big change in how paramedics can respond to patients in central BC. We are excited about our ability to provide enhanced safety when responding to medical emergencies at night,” said Tammy Schiere, BCEHS Interim Director of Aviation, in a release.

Read more: Funding brings sigh or relief for Penticton Search and Rescue

The Kamloops air ambulance operates 12 hours a day, every day of the year. It has two emergency patient stretchers and flies with two critical care paramedics, along with a two-pilot crew.

This helicopter, which operates within a 300-kilometer radius of Kamloops and services the Penticton area, responds to roughly 25 emergencies a month. This number is expected to increase with this added capacity to respond later in the day. Already this year, the team has responded to more than 280 patient events.

Summit Helicopters chief pilot Steven Williams is excited for his crews to start using the new technology.

“Putting night goggles on means it is much, much safer,” he said. “You can actually see the mountains below you in the dark. Once pilots wear the technology, they never want to fly without the goggles at night again.”

Read more: Flight checks to take place at Penticton Hospital’s new helipad

To report a typo, email: [email protected].


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