Drones

Canadian police save a man's life, using a drone

Canadian police save a man's l...
Draganfly Innovations' X4-P quadcopter, which is similar to the model used in the rescue
Draganfly Innovations' X4-P quadcopter, which is similar to the model used in the rescue
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Draganfly Innovations' X4-P quadcopter
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Draganfly Innovations' X4-P quadcopter
Draganfly Innovations' X4-P quadcopter, which is similar to the model used in the rescue
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Draganfly Innovations' X4-P quadcopter, which is similar to the model used in the rescue
Draganfly Innovations' X4-ES quadcopter
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Draganfly Innovations' X4-ES quadcopter
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While we hear a lot about the ways in which hovering aerial drones can potentially be used to violate peoples’ privacy, it’s always nice to know that they can help us, too. That was the case last Thursday (May 9th), when RCMP from the Canadian city of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan used a remotely-operated quadcopter to locate the victim of a single-vehicle rollover, which occurred in the countryside at near-freezing temperatures.

At 12:20 am, the Saskatoon RCMP first received a report of the rollover, and went out to the accident site to investigate – they were joined at the scene by fire rescue and emergency medical response teams. The car was located, but even after conducting a 200-meter (656-foot) ground search of the area, no occupants could be found.

An air ambulance helicopter was then called in, the crew of which used a night vision system to conduct a larger, aerial search. When that search also proved fruitless, the RCMP brought in Corporal Doug Green, a Forensic Collision Reconstructionist, along with the detachment’s forward-looking infrared (FLIR) camera-equipped Draganflyer X4-ES quadcopter – the drone is made by Draganfly Innovations, which is itself based in Saskatoon.

Draganfly Innovations' X4-ES quadcopter
Draganfly Innovations' X4-ES quadcopter

By 2:10 am, the 25 year-old lone driver of the car made a 911 call from his mobile phone, letting police know that he was cold, and didn’t know where he was. With some help from the phone company, the GPS coordinates of his phone were triangulated, indicating that the call was made approximately 2 miles (3.2 km) south of the accident site.

Green moved to that area, and the X4-ES was relaunched. It picked up three heat signatures on its FLIR, one of which was the injured driver. He was located in a wooded area 200 meters from the site of his phone call, curled in a ball next to a snow bank at the base of a tree. He wasn’t wearing any outdoor clothing, had lost his shoes, and was unresponsive. Ground crews soon reached him, and proceeded to get him a hospital.

According to the RCMP, “Without the UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] and FLIR, searchers would not have been able to locate the driver until daylight.” For its part, Draganfly Innovations stated, “To our knowledge, this is the first time a public safety agency has saved a life using a sUAS (small Unmanned Aerial System) helicopter”.

Video of the rescue, as shot by the drone’s FLIR camera, can be seen in the video below.

Sources: RCMP, Draganfly Innovations via The Verge

Single Vehicle Rollover -- Saskatoon RCMP Search for Injured Driver with Unmanned Aerial Vehicle

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12 comments
EddieG
Somebody is very lucky. This thing wouldn't survive a brush with a bird. A crosswind would send it to the trees.
Milton
@Eddie.
I've seen a quadro-copter fly, and I can tell you that it is extremely stable. Some of the fancy ones even use GPS to keep them that much more stable. I'd suggest you look into them more.
I'm not sure how much one of these units costs, but it sure seems a lot cheaper and easier than sending out a full-blown chopper.
Shaun Young
@Eddie, you're probably not familiar with the stability and precision of Draganflyers. With a trained pilot operating the flyer there is little chance of losing signal connection to a drone or being at significant risk of losing control. I also imagine the chances of being hit by a bird are very low - what animal would fly straight towards the big square shaped buzzing thing in the sky?
Slowburn
For reasons of range I prefer fixed wing but stable hovering is useful. The flying ambulance should have had FLIR as well.
Arahant
As others have mentioned quadro-copters are very stable, they have all sorts of complex algorithms and gyroscopes that can keep them relatively stable even in high sustained winds or gusts. Also there arn't a whole lot of birds flying at night, and bats definitely wouldn't hit it.
This guy is still very lucky to have been found, its hard not judge this guy when he gets in an accident then walks 2km south away from his car where cops go looking for him, without any cold weather gear on, then gets lost. Lucky for him he made that last call for them to triangulate on him. I'm glad he's ok though.
It is good to see a UAV finally being used successively in search and rescue. I like to see how fast technology goes from the point where it starts being developed untill it's being utilized by everyday people and organisations.
piperTom
Article says "GPS coordinates of his phone were triangulated." Meaning what? GPS coordinates give a location, close enough for an eyeball search. "Triangulated" means to locate from data giving three directional or range values. If RCMP had had GPS data, they would not have needed the drone, so I would guess the reference to GPS is spurious.
Robert in Vancouver
Eddie's comments about the Draganfly being so fragile are simply wrong.
It is a very stable and sturdy UAV, not affected by normal cross-winds.

Michiel Mitchell
I'm Way more interested in the FLIR.... sounds almost like it could be highly illegal in non military/Law-inforcement hands...
Slowburn
re; Michiel Mitchell
Why would an infrared camera be illegal? They have many uses.
Laura Ward
Considering how inaccurately my smart phone sometimes "pinpoints" my location, especially in remote areas where signal is sparse, this man was certainly lucky to be found, and that he had a cell phone signal at all. As one of the commenters stated, "triangulate" is probably not the correct word for what the cell phone signal provided, more likely it was only provided a general area to search. With the help of the drone the heat signature was spotted. All in all it was a great rescue. They need one of these things where I live, people are always getting lost in the mountains and are often searched for on foot, which is very time-consuming, resource intense and not always timely to save a lost person. Perhaps if these drones ever become reasonably priced and widely available, more search and rescue organizations can have access to them.