Fremont Police Use FLIR-Equipped UAV to Locate Missing Teen

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The City of Fremont (California) Police recently used one of its unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to locate a missing teen.

On Tuesday, Feb. 5 at 8:32 p.m., Fremont Police Dispatch received a call from the California Highway Patrol requesting an outside assist to locate a student of the California School for the Deaf who was missing. It was believed the teen-age juvenile had voluntarily gone missing, and there was immediate concern for the child’s mental well-being. Several Fremont patrol personnel responded to assist with the search.

The California School for the Deaf is within the jurisdiction of the California Highway Patrol (CHP). While CHP was responding to the scene, Fremont patrol units began developing information, with the assistance of the juvenile’s friends to help narrow his location. Through the use of social media, it was believed that the juvenile was near the train tracks in the Irvington District, close to Roberts Ave.

As a response to the search, a Fremont Police drone operator deployed a UAV, while other officers began searching the railroad tracks on foot. The UAV was equipped with a FLIR thermal camera.

Shortly after guiding the UAV to the location, the drone pilot located a heat spot. As information was being shared to the officers on foot, the missing juvenile’s friends, also on foot, approached their friend, who was hiding in bushes. The UAV operator was able to visually see this transpiring and continued to relay the information over the radio. The friends were aware of the drone and used their cell phone flashlights to signal the operator. In addition, a spotlight on the aircraft helped guide officers to their location and was used to provide light while officers communicated to the teens.

The missing teen was then taken to paramedics who were staging nearby. CHP handled the investigation from that point forward.

“We have been training and expanding our program to be prepared for this exact scenario,” states Lt. Matt Snelson, the department’s UAV program administrator. “This technology allowed us to expedite a search, which normally could have taken several hours and a lot of resources. To be able to locate a young man who needed help and get him to the resources he needed is a big success for our UAV team and our community.”

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