The Search and Rescue Agents offer a small amount of credits as a reward for pilots who hand in items that help find and rescue missing people. S&R Agents can be found under Contacts in the Station Services Menu of every station. They are useful for Search and Rescue activities.
Alternatively the items may be sold on a Black Market at a slightly higher price. Due to the low reward of such items search and rescue is not economically viable unless carried out as part of a mission, it is worth noting that turning in SAR items through missions do not add them to the total amount of people / items rescued.
In the Maia system there are lots of opportunities for both PVE and PVP operations. Thargoid contacts often contain Occupied Escape Pods and Black Boxes. The trick is to snap them up before the Thargoids and get out ASAP, although they are often quite docile as long as you don't get too close to them. Sometimes you can find Meta-Alloys or probes which are immensely rare, but you have to spend more time to find it. Surface retrieval missions often have escape pods nearby even if they're not the mission target. You could also go free searching on planets by using sensors to pick up Points of Interest on the ground, but this only works in the Bubble and can take a while. Degraded emission USS's are also a good place, but be careful of pirates.
In local systems you can keep an eye out for damaged ships who picked one too many fights with Thargoids in supercruise. They don't show up very often but when they do they're limping within an inch of their lives, sometimes even poisoned. You can offer assistance to players and ask them to drop out of supercruise then use limpets to repair their hull and modules, and regen beams to expedite their shield recharge rates. Limpets can't repair canopies though.
- Search and Rescue player role