DJI, the world’s leading manufacturer of civilian drones and aerial imaging technology, has reached a new milestone in the use of drones for search and rescue missions. The latest statistics gathered show that drones have been directly involved in rescuing more than 1,000 people from dangerous situations around the world.
One of the most recent examples involves two hikers in New York State who got lost at nightfall and were unable to guide rescuers to their location because their cell phone battery was nearly dead. The Sheriff’s Office UAS Unit found them with the help of a drone equipped with a thermal camera.
“Drones are a vital rescue tool for search and rescue operators around the world, and it is encouraging to see how civilians with drones often volunteer to help in critical emergencies,” said Christina Zhang, Senior Director of Corporate Strategy at DJI. “Since 2017, when we began compiling statistics on drone rescues, we have set a goal to show the world how important drone technology is to the men and women who risk their lives to save people from grave danger.”
Drones have often proven to be a valuable tool for saving people in grave danger. In July 2022, a teenager swimming off the east coast of Spain struggled to return to shore due to strong currents. A pioneering UAS lifeguard service operating on Spanish beaches used a drone to throw a life jacket to the exhausted 14-year-old, saving him from drowning before rescuers arrived.
A more unusual rescue involved a man stuck in the snow in Oregon in remote territory with no cell phone reception. The man attached his phone to his drone and launched it into the air to send an SOS message identifying his exact location. Rescuers found him along with two other people and brought them to safety.
The DJI Drone Rescue Map tracks incidents in which police, firefighters, rescue teams and ordinary bystanders have used drones to save people in distress since the first known rescue in 2013. DJI collects drone rescues from news stories and social media posts from authoritative sources such as police departments, fire departments, and volunteer rescue teams. Each incident is placed on the Drone Rescue Map with the location and date, a brief description, a link to the original story or post, and an easy way to share those incidents online. DJI’s map and count does not include incidents where a drone is simply used as part of a larger search process; instead, a drone must have directly located, assisted and/or rescued a person in distress.
“We are grateful that civilian drones have saved so many people around the world,” said Adam Welsh, DJI global policy manager. “We’re issuing a call to the public and other societal stakeholders to spread the word about how drones can really help and that limiting rescue agencies’ access to this technology-because of lack of funding or for other reasons-puts lives at risk.”