DJI report documents 65 lives saved by drones in past year

By Patrick C. Miller | May 09, 2018

In its second year of tracking the number of lives saved by drones, DJI Technology’s most recent report documents 65 cases of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) saving lives between May 2017 and April 2018.

Prepared by the drone manufacturer’s policy and legal affairs department, “More Lives Saved: A year of Drone Rescues Around the World,” relies on news reports to document cases of lives being saved by drone on five continents. Examples range from drones dropping floatation devices to swimmers caught in rip currents to thermal imaging sensors on unmanned aircraft locating lost or injured people.

Since DJI released its first report in March 2017, the company said its survey shows that at least 124 lives have been saved by UAS technology. “With public safety agencies around the world quickly adopting drones as a standard tool for search and rescue, it seems certain that this number will continue to rise,” DJI said in its latest report.

According to the report, at least 22 of those rescued by drones were in situations with a great risk of death, such as being stranded in water or exposed to hazardous weather. Another 19 were assisted by drones in situations that presented “great risks to health and safety.” In one instance noted in the report, a drone located 24 tourists lost at night on a mountain.

The report includes a full list of incidents and links to media coverage. The list was compiled from news accounts, primarily through English languages searches. DJI said the number of lifesaving drone rescues has probably been undercounted.

Among the trends identified, DJI said thermal imaging cameras saved the lives of at least 15 victims hidden from view by darkness or obstacles. Of those saved by drones, 32 were in the U.S. while the others were in China, Australia, Brazil, France and the United Kingdom. Professional rescuers used the payload capacity of drones to deliver items such as floatation devices, notes, two-way radios and food to assist stranded people.

The report credited the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) with opening the skies to more drone rescues through the implementation of Part 107, which gave public safety agencies and professional pilots a clear regulatory path. However, the report also advised, “Drones cannot be used widely for lifesaving work unless laws and regulations allow and encourage it.”