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DJI has released a new report stating that at least 65 people have been saved by drone technology in the last year. The report, following from the release of a similar publication last year, gathers accounts from news outlets and public safety agencies around the world. It includes 27 separate incidents from five different continents.

The report, titled “More Lives Saved: A Year Of Drone Rescues Around The World,” can be viewed in full here.

The focus is on how improved drone technology and increased use by first responders and emergency services have combined with advancing aviation regulations over the past twelve months.

drone use by first responders - saving lives with drone technology

According to the report, DJI has counted 65 people who were rescued from peril by use of a drone.

•At least 22 of them were in situations with great risk of death, such as stranded in a body of water or exposed in hazardous weather.

•Another 19 were found or assisted by drones in circumstances that were not imminently life-threatening, but presented great risks to health and safety.

• A single incident involved 24 tourists lost at night on a mountain with no food or water. Searchers found them with a drone after three hours of effort, and needed hours more to carry them to safety.

“Drones allow rescuers a way to find missing people, deliver supplies like food and life vests, and cut search and response times from hours to minutes,” said Brendan Schulman, DJI Vice President for Policy & Legal Affairs.

“When laws and regulations allow public safety agencies to deploy drones easily, rescuers are able to save time and money, protect their personnel, and most importantly, rescue people from peril.”

Rescuing more than one person per week

Flying in the face of near-weekly headlines suggesting that it’s a matter of time until drone technology brings down a commercial aircraft, the DJI report points out that more than one person a week was rescued by a drone over the last year on average.

Read more: EENA & DJI Celebrate Drone Search and Rescue in Iceland

The rise of drone-assisted thermal imaging for search and rescue

The DJI report also highlights the increased adoption of aerial thermal imaging technology by first responders. At least 15 of the 65 people saved by drone technology were discovered using thermal thermal imaging cameras, capable of detecting body heat despite darkness and poor visibility.

In one case, highlighted in the video above, police in Lincolnshire, England, were able to find a man following a car crash at night on a rural road. A drone with a thermal imaging camera surveyed the scene from above and discovered that the driver was unconscious in a ditch away from the scene.

The need for forward-looking regulations

A key takeaway from the DJI report is that first responders need more legislative leeway if they are to fully take advantage of drone technology.

Currently, the report points out, first responders are having to rely on exceptions to regulations in order to fly at night or beyond line of sight, for example.

“Public safety agencies cannot put drones to work without a legal and regulatory environment that encourages their use,” it says.

Using Part 107 as an example, the company points out that “Part 107 pilots are restricted from flying at night, over people or beyond the pilot’s line of sight unless they receive an individual waiver from the FAA…. the system still forces rescuers to rely on exceptions, rather than rules, in many potentially lifesaving situations.”

“Regulations that put undue burdens on emergency drone use will take a toll on public safety,” the report states.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, DJI also underlines the importance of a thriving consumer market for the future of public safety drones.

According to the report, “the clear reality [is that] if regulatory policies limit the availability of drones to the general public, public safety agencies will be less likely to benefit from the innovative technology, economies of scale and competitive pricing created by a healthy market for consumer drones.”

Combined with last year’s report detailing the lives saved by drones, DJI has now counted at least 124 people around the world rescued by drones.

Malek Murison is a freelance writer and editor with a passion for tech trends and innovation. He handles product reviews, major releases and keeps an eye on the enthusiast market for DroneLife.
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