Another search for a missing person has ended with a positive result, thanks to the use of a drone equipped with a thermal camera. You couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.
Picture this: An elderly man with dementia wanders off. It happens, unfortunately, and this time it happened at night. The gentleman left his family home in Grant County, east of Seattle, at about 1:30 a.m. It was, obviously, pitch black. A 911 call was placed, and the Hartline and Almira Volunteer Fire Departments responded.
Thankfully, they had a thermal-equipped drone.
The area they were searching was challenging. Not only was it dark, but tall brush meant that even flashlights were of limited use. The departments quickly launched a drone. And, as you likely know, a thermal sensor will highlight objects depending on their heat signature. Colder spots – like the ground – show up dark, and warmer objects are brighter.
It’s this sharp contrast that searchers are looking for. And in this case, the contrast could not have been more stark.
Of course, drones have the ability to record their mission. So the First Responders released the video to a local news channel. You can see it unfold, as the drone operator relays the position of the missing person to those searching by foot. You can even see a couple of search dogs join in toward the end.
The man who’d wandered was 70 years old, and temperatures were just below freezing. By the time the drone located him, the man was lying down in the brush, making him virtually invisible to anyone searching on the ground. In fact, as you likely saw in the story, searchers with flashlights had walked past the man’s location earlier without detecting him.
Drones are powerful tools; the frequency of stories like this confirms it.
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