Drone rescues lost grandfather who otherwise ‘didn’t stand a chance’

North Wales Police drone unit

Drones have been used to make countless deliveries in recent years, but a case in Wales took that service to another level when a police craft returned a missing elderly man to his panicked family.

Drones called in after boats, choppers fail

A police drone in North Wales was deployed in an expanding search last month to locate 82-year-old Roy Giblin after his worried family reported him missing. Giblin vanished after heading out for an evening walk. When relatives received no word of his whereabouts, police were called in to mount a search. Initially boats were used to scour waters off the coastal area, with helicopters later joining the operation. Eventually, local authorities scanning closed circuit video footage determined the last visual glimpse of Giblin was captured near the local train station. When foot patrols failed to turn him up in the surrounding area of grassy fields, police decided that deploying its drones was the best, possibly last solution. 

The move turned out to be the key to success as well. Over 18 hours after his disappearance, the drone caught sight of the hunkered down Giblin, who was quickly recovered and returned to his family.

“We had a sighting of him in some very long grass around, 4 feet high, away from the area where the ground team were searching,” Sergeant Paul Terry, North Wales Police’s lead drone pilot, said in UK media reports. “But because we had aerial cover, it could capture an area wider than what they were searching for visually. It was when we saw a disturbance in the pattern of grass, we noticed his head poking out.”

Giblin later explained he’d been fine until becoming disoriented in the vast expanse of grass, which was tall enough to prevent him from determining a way out. Given Giblin’s age, extended period of his wandering, and the swiftly approaching nightfall that would have complicated the search efforts, Terry said the drone “very likely” saved his life. 

DJI rescue drone becomes family’s hero

Giblin’s daughter, Lauren Delaney, was less conditional in calling the craft a lifesaver.

“Without that drone, he didn’t stand a chance,” she said in reports. “If they’d not had the drone, he would probably have still been there now, we wouldn’t have had a clue where he was.”

North Wales Police say they only began deploying their DJI Matrice 300 RTK drones in April, but since that time have had to use them over 250 times – or more than 50 flying hours. The craft are equipped with thermal cameras and 200x zoom lenses, but despite those, Terry says Giblin “very likely wouldn’t have been located (at) night.” Score droning tech with another timely, life-changing delivery.

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