Drone to the rescue

For the first time in B.C., a drone has been used to locate missing people.

Kamloops Search and Rescue launched the heat-seeking drone to help find seven missing skiers and snowboarders who’d gone out of bounds at Sun Peaks.

One of the snowboarders said the group was searching for adventure when they crossed into an out-of-bounds area looking for fresh powder.

They spent nine hours floundering in hip-deep snow. Lucky for them, Kamloops SAR is part of a pilot program with Emergency Management BC, testing where and when drones might help rescuers.

“These were ideal conditions,” said Kamloops SAR manager Alan Hobler.

Search officials already had a good idea where the missing people were, so they focused the drone on an area where most thrill seekers get lost.

The lost people were moving around and keeping their body heat high; that contrast made them easier to spot with the infrared FLIR camera mounted to the remote-controlled unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). Hobler says the drone likely wouldn’t have spotted them in summertime conditions.

“I think it's another tool in the toolbox and there's an appropriate time for different tools and if this drone worked in this situation, in my view that's a win,” said Mike Danks of North Shore Rescue.

Several other search and rescue organizations are looking into using drones in their areas.

- with files from CTV

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