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Drones Are Saving One Life Per Week, DJI Study Finds

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DJI Technology Inc, the largest civilian drone maker, is claiming in a new study that “59 lives have been saved by civilian drones in 18 different incidents, with one life a week being saved by drones on average.”

The study was published on March 14, 2017, and is based on reports in the news. The majority of the rescues have occurred in USA and China, although instances have occurred in Canada and Turkey as well.

One third were saved by civilians using their hobbyist drones and not by emergency personnel, showing their far-reaching abilities. 31 lives were saved during floods, as drones spotted missing people and delivered rescue ropes and life jackets. 19 missing people were found on land, on terrain ranging from swamps to mountains to snow banks. 9 more people were rescued off beaches or in boats.

The Hindu of Dec 7 reported that in Chennai, India during heavy flash floods the city police “were able to locate as many as 200 people with the help of drones and rescued all of them.” Whenever the video camera located a stranded person, GPS maps were used to find their exact location and the rescue teams dispatched in boats with real-time instructions. And this figure is not even taken into the count of the 59 people rescued above, as it does not include a definite number.

This study from DJI comes just on the heels of another report where it claimed that a drone could be up to 4.9lbs instead of FAA’s mandated 0.55lb and still be low-risk to people.

A research study that DJI undertook with Ireland’s Donegal Mountain Search and Rescue found that a five-person rescue team needs two hours on average to find a victim in a one square kilometer area, but a drone can find a victim in that area in 20 minutes – six times quicker.

UAS (unmanned aircraft system) also protect first responders’ lives by providing an eye in the sky view of the hazards at the scene, where they can survey from a safe distance and plan the course of action. Three years ago a fire broke out in Connecticut not far from a dynamite storage area. The firefighters used a volunteer’s drone sending back images to his iPhone before determining that it was safe enough to send rescue personnel. “Believe me, the Fire Department will be buying one soon,” Fire Chief Jack Ahern said of the drone technology.

Jaguar Land Rover, Britain’s largest car manufacturer, has recently launched a drone equipped Discovery SUV for the Austrian Red Cross. Project Hero as it is officially called features a roof-mounted drone that can take off and land while the vehicle is in motion, thanks to its self-centering and magnetic retention tech. This dedicated drone can send live footage back to the vehicle, so that they can respond immediately in crisis situations.

Regulations that are excessively safety driven without considering all aspects can also affect the efficacy of drones in their lifesaving roles.

“A more restrictive altitude limitation for drones means that less terrain will be within view of the camera during a search-and-rescue mission. A blanket restriction on night operations will preclude the very effective use of a thermal camera to find missing people and to combat fires during half of the available time,” the DJI study points out.

There may be some risks in the flying of unpiloted aircraft but, as we see, their advantage as the new heroes in search and rescue may outweigh the risks involved. You can read the full 6-page DJI study here.


Image credits: Header photo by Sam Beebe

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