Volunteer search-and-rescue group Texas EquuSearch resumed using drones in their operations on Wednesday.
The group received an email from the FAA in February ordering them to stop using UAVs to find missing persons, citing the agency’s blanket ban on the use of drones for commercial purposes in the U.S.
Texas EquuSearch grounded the drones at the time but sued the FAA and, earlier this month, an appeals court judge sided with EquuSearch saying, “The email at issue is not a formal cease-and-desist letter representing the agency’s final conclusion that an entity has violated the law. The [FAA] employee did not represent the consummation of the agency’s decision making process, nor did it give rise to any legal consequences.”
The ruling opened the skies for Texas EquuSearch and now they have deployed their drones to the search area around Livingston, TX for a 57-year-old Montgomery man who has been missing since July 9.
Tim Miller, founder of Texas EquuSearch and vocal proponent of drone technology, said the drone was already proving its utility during Wednesday’s search.
“It’s very, very hot out here today, people are getting tired, having to take several breaks and stay hydrated. The drone gets stuff done a lot faster than our ground searches,” Miller said in a telephone interview from the search site.
Just last week, drone photographer David Lesh took to the sky in Fitchburg, WI in search of 82-year-old Guillermo DeVenecia. The police had been searching for DeVencia, who suffers from alzheimer’s and hearing loss, for three days to no avail.
Using his drone, it took Mr. Lesh 20 minutes to find DeVencia, alive and unharmed.
Hopefully Texas EquuSearch has similar results.
The group has helped in high-profile missing persons cases such as the searchers for Natalie Holloway and Caylee Anthony.
Now that they have a carte-blanche (of sorts) to use drones in their operations, success in a high profile cases could be a tremendous step forward in convincing the general public of the usefulness and necessity for commercial drones.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com