Drone Technology Plays a Key Role in Successful Search and Recovery Operations

Drones have quickly become an invaluable instrument for search and recovery teams everywhere. Whether it is helping locate lost hikers, detect survivors in the aftermath of natural disasters, or even helping individuals with Autism or Dementia find their way home, drones can assist in ways that used to be costly and laborious.  

The value of drones for search and rescue operations really matters in three main areas: responding quickly at a low cost, integrating the use of sensors such as thermal imaging and zoom cameras, and providing automated search coverage of a precise area. 

Local police and volunteer Search and Rescue teams have long relied on helicopters and airplanes to aid in locating missing persons; but these options are both expensive and slow. In contrast, drones like the Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced are ready to fly in minutes, at a fraction of the cost of manned aircraft.    

Some drones, like the DJI  Matrice 300 carry both thermal and visual solutions, meaning that you can locate people under almost any conditions. Flying with two distinct tools together allows viewing both heat signatures and visible information, like body heat in a forest or a hunter’s neon cap on a snowy mountain.  

When you need an expansive search pattern to guide your team’s ground crews, even low-cost drones such as the DJI Phantom 4 Series, with its intelligent flight mode, can automatically fly a precise grid over a specific area while capturing still or video images. You can then view the footage in hand or wirelessly transmitted with the Teradek Cube system and be confident that your team is searching in an efficient, methodical way.  

These are just a few of the many options for a cost effective and capable search and rescue drone, Contact Us today to learn more. 

Search and Rescue Drones in the News:

HARTLINE, Wash. — It’s a nightmare losing a loved one at night in freezing weather.

“This gentleman, I’ve probably known him since I was in diapers,” said Fire Chief Daryl Dormaier, with Grant County Fire District 6.

Dormaier was called out sometime after 1:40 a.m. Monday morning to find someone who was like family to him.

A 70-year-old man, with dementia was lost. The Grant County Sheriff’s Office was first called to help find the man around 1:30 a.m. after family went searching for him.

“[Deputies] searched the area for a couple hours and they weren’t able to find him. It was a pretty rugged area and there was a lot of sagebrush,” said Kyle Foreman, the public information officer with Grant County Sheriff’s Office.

Dennis Pinar, the Almira fire chief, who was also called out to the scene, said the sagebrush was three to four feet high.

The man was also wearing dark clothing, huddled on the ground.

“Several people on foot had walked by him and it was the drone that actually located everyone to him,” Pinar told 4 News Now.

If it weren’t for a drone with infrared thermal camera, it might’ve been a different outcome.

“We never saw him. We only had flashlights, and it would’ve been a lot more looking and searching hadn’t we had the sheriff’s department’s drone with infrared,” said Dormaier.

The infrared camera picks up a certain amount of heat a person or object emits to help locate it.

Foreman says the use of the drone depends on the resources. In this case, when they could not find the man, the decision was made to use the drone. It’s in a remote area, so it took a little bit longer for the drone operator to get out there.

“Very crazy to watch it unfold from the sky like that… It doesn’t depict what the terrain and what the brush looked like actually being there,” Pinar added.

Close to 4 a.m., the Grant County Sheriff’s Office flew the drone. Within eight minutes, they found the man because of his heat signature.

The video posted by the sheriff’s office showed a white outline of a person laying on the ground. When he was found with the camera, deputies helped volunteers find him. After volunteer firefighters and deputies found the man, they did a medical check up on him, warmed him up and sent him home with family.

What could’ve been a much longer night, and heartbreaking outcome, didn’t happen because of the technology and the every day heroes.

“It’s just something we do. It’s kind of neighbor helping neighbor, down here in this neck of the woods,” Dornaier said.

Not only does the Grant County Sheriff’s Office have one of those drones, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office has one, too. They don’t just use it for search and rescues, either. In the past, both sheriff’s offices have used to to find criminals hiding in buildings or in large fields with high sagebrush or agriculture.