Drones now saving lives

Changing technology makes drones a game changer
Posted at 7:36 AM, May 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-10 07:36:48-04

When it comes to saving lives, seconds count. And now, thanks to improving technology, drones are proving to be a game changer in an emergency.

Dozens of people’s lives were saved last year with the help of drones, according to drone maker DJI.  The company said from May of 2017 to April of 2018, 65 people were rescued with the help of a drone. DJI reviewed media reports to come up with that number and included documentation in its recent report released this year.

Firefighters, search and rescue teams and other members of law enforcement are using drones to survey an area much faster from the air than people can on the ground.

“During a search and rescue operation we can see body temperature, Romeo Durscher, DJI’s Public Safety Integration Director, said.

Drones carry more than simple cameras. They are now built to send back infrared images.

Aeryon Defense USA, of Denver, has drones that can carry upwards of four pounds of payload. The company sells drones that can be used by police agencies and the military.

"That allows you to hook in a medical kit, radio, food, water (or) ammunition to provide life sustaining equipment," said Mark Holden of Aeryon Defense USA. “We can carry water, enough for one day, food, even ammunition resupplies and some explosives as well.”

The company’s drones can also be programed to single out a person moving in the camera’s view, but ignore a tree blowing in the wind or wildlife.

“This is just the beginning. Everything we do is about taking the load off the end user. We want to replace human functions on the battlefield with a robot,” Holden said.

Drones have helped find a woman with dementia in Randolph County, North Carolina. She had wandered into a nearby field. Drones dropped a life preserver to flood victims in Sichuan, China before rescue crews arrived to save the victims. An infrared camera-equipped drone located a crash victim who became unconscious after leaving his car to get help. A similar camera also was used to locate lost tubers on a river in Vestavia Hills, Alabama.

Technology allows drones to carry more weight than before. In the last one-and-a-half to two years, drone makers have improved how drones fly in difficult weather conditions.

"Search and rescue operations rarely happen on a beautiful, no wind kind of day so we had to design them to withstand the snow, the wind, and the rain,” Durscher said.

They can help save the lives of rescuers too.

"You know what's ahead of you. It can alert you of a big cliff or flooded river,” Durscher said.

Drones used by most rescue agencies run as much as $25,000 to $35,000.