An elderly North Carolina resident with dementia went missing earlier this week, only to be found by a police officer with a drone in a matter of minutes. Not all search and rescue missions take place in the mountains.
In one of many recent cases of drones coming to the rescue, Officer Adam Krolfifer from the Randolph County sheriff’s office in North Carolina sent up a UAV near the family home where the lady had gone missing.
After surveying the immediate area from above, he flew beyond the woman’s home and toward a 40-acre field nearby. From above the corn field it quickly becomes clear that the old lady has wandered in and got lost. In environments like this, spotting her would only have been possible from above with the help of a drone.
The Rise of Police Drones
Plenty of local police forces in the US and the UK are adopting drone technology to document crime scenes from above and, occasionally, help out with search and rescue missions.
The cops in Randolph County had only had their drone for six weeks when this situation arose. Sheriff Robert Graves confirmed that this was the first missing person search the drone had been involved in.
“No doubt we would have located her, but he located her very quickly, which was great.”
His team have other potential uses in mind, too. “Imagine sending it out to look for an armed suspect,” said Capt. Bernie Maness. “Anything we can give the guys to give them protection, we’re going to do.”
Do Drones Save Lives?
Back in March manufacturer DJI released a report suggesting that around the world, drones have rescued at least 59 people from life-threatening conditions in 18 separate incidents.
The majority of cases were search and rescue related, with drones helping emergency services discover missing people in dangerous conditions. But there were also examples of drones delivering life-saving equipment, such as defibrillators or medicines.
The modest figure of 59 is probably much higher today, especially given the pioneering work of companies such as Zipline in Africa.
The report suggested that “drones are regularly saving lives around the world. This is occurring even though professional rescue crews are just beginning to adopt UAS technology, and in many cases are relying on bystanders or volunteers to provide lifesaving assistance.”