Drones Really Do Find People in Search-and-Rescue Missions

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
July 23 2014 12:01 PM

Drones Really Do Find People in Search-and-Rescue Missions

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Quadcopters can search from the skies.

Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

Though drones are controversial, they can definitely do good sometimes. Last week a Colorado man went to visit his girlfriend in Wisconsin and brought with him a drone, which he uses to film snow sport videos. And according to Gigaom, he ended up finding a missing person after offering to assist in a search-and-rescue effort.

David Lesh accidentally made a good argument for why consumer drones can be positive by being in the right place at the right time with his ski drone. He told NBC, “I never thought that I would be using it to find somebody.” The missing person was 82-year-old ophthalmologist Guillermo DeVenecia, who Lesh's drone spotted in a 200-acre bean field. The search and rescue had gone on for three days and had already involved dogs, hundreds of people, and a helicopter.

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The rescue lends support to a movement against the FAA's strict commercial drone regulations, which essentially ban their use for organized search and rescue groups. The Texas-based company EquuSearch has been clashing with the FAA for months over drone bans and decided last week that it would simply ignore the FAA's warnings to stop using drones. A favorable ruling from a federal appeals court last week motivated EquuSearch to resume using its drones.

We already know why drones can be creepy and threaten privacy, but it’s hard to ignore the good side of their functions. The crucial thing here is just to avoid building a centralized, all-seeing eye of Sauron. I think we can all agree that that wasn't a good solution.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Lily Hay Newman is a staff writer and the lead blogger for Future Tense.

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