The Sun reports that police used a drone equipped with thermal imaging to find the 83-year-old after being reported missing in Corsham, Wiltshire. The woman suffers from dementia.
Dogs, helicopters, and a team of volunteers were all employed to help find the woman, but it was the drone that identified her “huddling for warmth” in the woods, within an hour of being deployed. Police believe that she would have died of exposure if not found that night.
Search and rescue has become a major use for thermal imaging attached to drones. Drones are able to cover wide areas in a short amount of time, and to provide real-time data to ground crews coordinating a search and rescue mission. In the DJI report of at least 65 lives saved by drones in 2017, the role of thermal imaging was highlighted. At least 15 of the 65 lives saved were found with thermal imaging, which allows rescue teams to work through the night and find people by identifying body heat, despite poor visibility.
The Sun quoted Special Inspector Guy Sanders, who piloted the drone, as saying: “Obviously, due to her age, the illness and the dropping temperatures in the evening we were all really worried about her.
“Luckily, the drone is able to cover huge areas, and the thermal camera picks up heat sources enabling us to clear the ‘cold areas’ quickly so we can focus on heat detail.
“I’m really glad we found her when we did.”
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.