UAS Successfully Locates Missing Student in Virginia

An unmanned aircraft system (UAS) has brought another happy ending in a search-and-rescue (SAR) mission: The Stafford County Sheriff’s Office in Virginia says it recently located a missing high school student with the help of its drone.

According to a press release from the sheriff’s office, the department received a call on Monday at approximately 5:00 p.m. in reference to a missing person, an 18-year-old Mountain View High School student who failed to return home after school. The missing student had no history of running away, but the sheriff’s office says it had reason to believe that he may have been in danger. Deputies had located the missing student’s backpack and cell phone in the school – heightening the concern for his safety.

Furthermore, says the sheriff’s office, detectives conducted numerous interviews with associates of the student and learned that nobody had seen or heard from him since the end of the school day.

In light of the circumstances and the belief that the missing student may still have been somewhere in the area of the school, the sheriff’s office’s SAR team, along with the UAS team, was called out to assist in the search. The drone, equipped with a thermal imaging camera, was launched just before 9:00 p.m.

By 9:30 p.m. the drone operator picked up a thermal image believed to be that of the missing student in the far southwest portion of the school property, located near the track. Drone team members then directed deputies to that area, and luckily, the student was found unharmed.

“The drone has proven to be an invaluable tool for our agency,” says Stafford Sheriff D.P. Decatur. “Having the ability to search large areas of land from above in a short period of time for lost, missing and dangerous individuals has allowed us to provide another layer of safety to our citizens. I’m extremely happy that we were able to quickly locate and return this young man back to his family unharmed.”


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