Interesting events have transpired recently in the state of Virginia where a single drone owned and operated by the D.C. area Police Department has helped save the life of a 92-year-old man who went missing after a hunting trip in the nearby woodland area in Shenandoah County.
These chain of events started on a Saturday morning, on the 16th of December 2017, when local hunter William Luther McDonnell failed to return home after going into the woods of the Laurel Run area in the Shenandoah County to hunt. The missing person’s report lead to the advancement of numerous law enforcement agencies in the area to help out in the search, which included the deployment and usage of the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office drone. The drone was launched within the last known area where McDonnell was last seen, and astonishingly, the drone spotted the missing hunter within 20 minutes after it was launched from the area. Rescue teams were then dispatched to the location and the hunter was found to be in good condition.
The drone, which was added to the Shenandoah County’s assets October of the same year, was purchased as a part of the County’s “Project Lifesaver Program”. This program involved the use of an electronic-based tracking system with the goal of quickly locating missing people, specifically those with medical conditions like autism or Alzheimer’s, many of whom have a high tendency to wander away from homes and familiar areas. An aerial view of the situation would immensely help in the foreseeable search operation, which in this particular hunter’s case, proved to be quite effective and efficient.
The drone itself was actually untested in the field prior to this particular missing person search, as they have only acquired it recently and had no prior opportunity to actually use it in an actual case. This makes the hunter’s rescue all the more impressive being solved by a lone drone that was fresh in the field, with new equipment incorporated in it (the Project Lifesaver Program), and an inexperienced drone navigator to control it into the area of search.
When reached for a comment about drone technology and how it aided in the search, the Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman had this to say: “This new technology allows our deputies to more efficiently search for missing persons, especially those in the Project Lifesaver Program, and bring them home safe. We are pleased we were able to assist Shenandoah County and safely return this man to his family.”
Armed with cameras that can be used in both daytime and night, drones have the potential to be a key instrument in surveillance and rescue operations. Lightweight and easily deployed into the field, a rescue drone has the capability of being a massive advantage compared to manual rescue search. Drones can easily hover above any line of sight that are available for rescuers, giving them a bird’s eye view of the situation. A drone’s view can also prove more valuable than the view of individuals in a helicopter, as the drone can dive into areas that a helicopter may have trouble advancing to. Small, light, and incredibly accurate in flight, drones are truly a godsend in a game where visibility is the key to a fast response, and the big picture of things, a better chance of finding missing people before hunger, fatigue, or thirst sets in the unwary victims.