Lifesaving Drone Missions Fulfilled

March 14, 2017
Lifesaving Drone Missions Fulfilled

By K. Daniel Glover

Drones contributed to the saving of at least 59 lives in 18 different emergency situations around the world between May 2015 and last month, according to a new report. Eight of the rescues involving 14 people occurred in the United States.

China-based DJI, the leading civilian drone maker, produced the report based on news accounts of the incidents. People were counted as being saved by drones if they were “in a state of danger that could imperil [them],” such as floods, fires and exposure to extreme weather. The drones in these situations also had to play a “material role” in getting the people to safety.

The report calculated that drones are saving about one life a week. “For firefighters, rescue squads and search operations,” the report said, “drones offer an unprecedented way to quickly find missing people with traditional cameras or thermal imaging sensors, as well as to bring them emergency supplies such as water, life jackets, medicine and rescue ropes.”

The report found that drones not only enhance search-and-rescue operations and make them safer for emergency responders, but they also empower civilians. One-third of the saved lives identified in the report involved civilians using their drones.

The report mentioned the following livesaving drone incidents in the United States:

  • Four people in a Texas flood (May 17, 2015). The pilot, Garret Bryl, has become a drone celebrity since then. Featured in Drone360, Droneblog, The Huffington Post, People and other publications, he is scheduled to speak at the ASCEND Conference and Expo in July.
  • Two teenagers trapped by flooding in Maine (June 30, 2015).
  • A missing teacher found in an Indiana field (June 21, 2016). A civilian volunteered his drone for that search, and the success of the operation motivated the county sheriff to look into buying his department a drone.
  • Two missing boaters in Iowa, one of whom had a heart attack and was rushed to the hospital after being discovered (July 13, 2016).
  • A North Carolina man lost and stranded in his kayak (Aug. 26, 2016). “They knew he had diabetes and he was elderly, so they had the idea to string up a bottle of water,” volunteer pilot John Frink said. “I hung it from the drone and carried it to him.”
  • A 65-year-old hunter and his dog who got lost in Minnesota (Sept. 17, 2016).
  • A North Carolina man and his dog trapped in their home by the floodwaters of Hurricane Matthew (Oct. 9, 2016). A drone pilot’s decision to post a photo of a flooded home to Twitter led to the discovery of the need for a rescue.
  • And two lost South Carolina kayakers who were found thanks to a fire department’s drone with thermal imaging capability (Jan. 14, 2017).