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4 Drones that saved lives

July 3, 2017

Drones can save lives, despite the word ‘drone’ carrying with it negative connotations, having been synonymous with the military for years. More recently, drones have become accessible to civilians and a more common feature of the skies. In 2017 DJI revealed a survey claiming that at least 59 people had been rescued from life-threatening conditions. In an effort to spread the positive effects this new technology can have in our society I’ve researched specific stories and found 4 drones that saved lives.


Virginia Rescue


In July of 2014, an amateur drone pilot rescued an 82-year-old man, Guillermo DeVenecia after he went missing near his home in Virginia. Local amateur pilot, David Lesh heard about the search and decided he wanted to help. Even though search dogs and a helicopter could not find Guillermo, it was David Lesh who rescued the man from dehydration and certain death. An article by theblaze.com reported that David used a first person view controller, flying 200 ft above the ground and was able to search the area in minutes, which would have taken hundreds of person hours on foot.


North Carolina Flood


In 2016, Hurricane Matthew brought with it massive flooding in North Carolina. When his home began taking in water, Chris Williams, and his dog, Lana headed upstairs to high ground in an attempt to stay above water. When local drone photographer, Quavas Hart took to the skies to capture aerial footage he uploaded his shots to Twitter which captured the attention of Craig Williams (Chris’s brother). Recognising his brothers home, Craig promptly contacted Quavas asking for help to rescue his brother and his dog (which was too old to swim). Quavas did not have a boat himself but he used his drone to capture the attention of FEMA rescuers who eventually brought Chris and Lana to dry land. USA today quoted the photographer; “I directed them over there to where Chris was. They wouldn’t have checked that house had I not distracted them with my drone”.


Minneapolis Swamp Rescue


After unintentionally wandering into a swamp, a 65-year-old man dialed 911 in September of 2016. The man had hoped that he and his dog could be rescued after becoming stuck. The Anoka County Sheriff’s Office quickly deployed a drone to search for the man. After being instructed to wave his bright clothing around, the drone spotted him and was able to send a rescue helicopter to his location. Exhausted and appreciative, the man’s life was probably saved by the drone operators.  


Canadian Mounties Rescue Car Crash Victim


In 2013, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police announced that they successfully used a small unmanned aircraft to search for and rescue an injured driver who’s car had flipped over in a remote wooded area in near-freezing temperatures. The driver manager to dial 911 but he was unaware of his location. Emergency response deployed a manned helicopter equipped with night vision but they were not able to after sweeping the area. After several hours without success, they decided to try an unmanned aerial vehicle with an infrared camera heading to the last known area picked up from the driver’s mobile phone GPS signal. The drone’s camera identified three heat signatures, one of which would be the injured driver. The article posted by theverge.com quotes Zenon Dragan, president and founder of the Draganfly company that manufactures the drone as saying “to our knowledge, this is the first time that a life may have been saved with the use of a small unmanned aerial system helicopter”.

These are just 4 separate stories of how drones have saved lives but with the technology improving year on year, these types of cases will become more common. Drone rescues won’t just be limited to disasters or accidents but could be used to increase the survival rate of heart attack victims. A team of scientists in Sweden has posited that drones can respond to emergency situations much faster than traditional ambulances and could be equipped with automated external defibrillators (AED’s). The possibilities are endless.


How else will drones be used to save lives? Are there new developments you would like to let me know about? Reach out to us on Twitter and Facebook and keep up to date at Affinity. If you would like to know how Affinity implements safe techniques before and after each flight check out our process file which you can download for free. 

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