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Missing hikers on Japan’s Mt Fuji may soon be rescued by drone

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Mount Fuji is one of the most recognizable tourist spots in all of Japan.

Standing at 3,776.24 m (12,389 ft), it is a favorite attraction for visitors from around the world.

An average person can complete the return journey up and down the mountain in five to seven hours. While not the most difficult of climbs (no special equipment is required), some hikers nevertheless find themselves either lost or injured during the journey. In 2017 alone, several thousand people were injured during their ascent.

Japanese cellphone provider KDDI Corp have signaled that from the beginning of 2019 they will begin to use drones to partake in search and rescue missions for hikers lost or injured on Mt Fuji.

As it currently stands, when a person goes missing, a helicopter is often dispatched which is extremely costly and is not always able to .

How the drone rescue program works

The company had recently carried a trial of the technology in a nearby prefecture. KDDI Corp worked in conjunction with Yamap Inc., a smartphone map applications. In the trial, the drone would locate people who carried GPS devices (which in the smartphone age, is basically everyone). The drones are also synced with weather software that allows them to fly the best route to the hikers. In future, they plan to add microphones and cameras so the drones can fly to the stranded person and communicate with them.

The KDDI drones can fly up to 40mph and are able to operate in high winds. They are equipped with thermal imaging cameras which will help locate anyone missing on Mt Fuji at night or in low-cloud conditions.

We’re looking forward to hearing how this program goes once it’s fully operational next year!

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