A 92-year-old hunter lost in a heavily wooded area of Shenandoah County, Va., was found safe in just 20 minutes after the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) deployed the agency’s small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) to assist local authorities in the search.
According to an announcement from the sheriff’s office, this marked the first successful use of the LCSO drone since the implementation of the new technology in September.
Members of the LCSO search-and-rescue (SAR) team were contacted early Sunday morning by the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office to assist in a search for a missing Shenandoah County man. Seven members of the team responded to the scene and used thermal imagers and the sUAS to search the area. The drone was launched at 9:30 a.m., and around 9:50 a.m., the subject was visually located. The search teams on the ground were provided coordinates for the man’s location and were able to locate him safe and sound.
“This new technology allows our deputies to more efficiently search for missing persons, especially those in the Project Lifesaver program, and bring them home safe. We are pleased we were able to assist Shenandoah County and safely return this man to his family,” says Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman.
92yo veteran Bill McDonnell lost track of time during solo hunting trip & slept outside o/night, no sleeping bag, in rugged terrain. @LoudounSheriff’s new drone found him uninjured the next day only 20 mins after launch. Image below shows drone spotting McDonnell’s hat. @ABC7News pic.twitter.com/rHd0PkpvR4
— Jay Korff (@ABC7Jay) December 19, 2017
The LCSO was the first in Virginia and the sixth agency in the U.S. to have a drone equipped with a Project Lifesaver antenna, the agency says. The Project Lifesaver program is an electronic-based locating system for people with medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s or autism who have a tendency to wander from home. Project Lifesaver clients are equipped with a wristband transmitter that emits an automatic locating signal. If the client becomes lost, the specially trained deputies with the LCSO SAR team will now use the sUAS, equipped with the Project Lifesaver payload, to help locate the client.
The LCSO drone is also enabled to carry a payload of infrared and high-resolution cameras to assist in SAR operations. Members of the LCSO SAR team who operate the sUAS are licensed pilots through the Federal Aviation Administration, the agency notes.
Photo courtesy of the Loudon County Sheriff’s Office’s Facebook page