An image from a drone helped emergency services locate and save a teenager with special needs in Cherokee County woods in Cherokee County, North Carolina on Monday.
According to Hiwassee Dam Fire Department, the missing boy was found by drones with infrared technology. The drones detected the boy’s body heat and led the people searching on foot to the teen’s location.
Hamilton County Emergency Management and West Polk Fire and Rescue began flying three drones in grid patterns for two hours in the hope of detecting heat signatures to find the missing boy.
The department says one of the drones picked up a heat signature, and once zoomed in, saw the signature seemed to be a body lying in the fetal position.
The department says once his heat signature was detected by a Hamilton County drone, GPS coordinates were marked and rescue personnel saved the missing boy.
Hiwassee Dam Fire Department Chief Chad McNabb tells WDEF that the drone cameras meant that they were able to successfully locate the missing boy within a matter of hours. The technology also significantly reduced the manpower involved in the rescue mission.
Prior to the availability of drone cameras, McNabb says that emergency services would “have basically filled the woods full of folks doing grid searches and just hoped someone stumbled up on him.”
“Five years ago, we would have never dreamed this was possible,” McNabb tells WDEF.
“I knew the technology existed, I’d never been exposed to it to this extent. But now that I’ve seen it — highly impressed. I think everyone on the scene was impressed with it as well.”
PetaPixel previously reported on aerial cinematographer Doug Thron who uses a commercial drone equipped with both an infrared and a normal camera to detect and save trapped animals from disaster zones — including most recently in Ukraine.
The drone that Thron uses has an infrared camera attached that will detect an animal’s body heat, then using his powerful zoom, he can check to see whether his infrared reading is accurate.
Image credits: All photos sourced via Twitter/@westonwamp.