Police use drone to find missing person with dementia

The device was equipped with infrared technology.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Representational image of a search and rescue drone.jpg
Representational image of a search and rescue drone.

Sophie Linckersdorff/iStock 

A police drone equipped with infrared capabilities has risen as a hero in the search for a missing person with dementia that disappeared from a Delta hospital on July 29. Delta is a city located in British Columbia, Canada.

This is according to a report by Global News published on Wednesday. 

Delta police told the news outlet they received news of a potential sighting of the missing person at a local park called Dugald Morrison but once they arrived at the site they were not able to find them.

Big guns

That’s when they took out the big guns: a drone equipped with an infrared (IR) camera and spotlight.

“The drone allows us to get up very quickly, and then get a lens on an open area, or an area rapidly, and from there we can narrow our search down, or we can go out and find them in a specific area,” Sgt. Jim Ingram with Delta police told Global News

The machine proved extremely useful at searching the nearby easement and farm fields, regions far too large for the police to tackle by foot.

It was then that a heat signature on the drone enabled the officials to pinpoint the missing person’s location in a brush area. The drone’s spotlight and zoom cameras were able to confirm that the person spotted was indeed the one that had gone missing.

“This one where the person was in medical distress, that search would have been extremely difficult on foot, this in this instance was a game-changer,” Ingram said.

Delta police further told Global News that their drones have a variety of applications but those equipped in particular with infrared technology come in handy in "potential life-or-death searches."

Search and rescue

In November of 2020, researchers predicted that drones would grow to be an important resource in search and rescue missions.

“In the future, rescuing lost, ill or injured persons will increasingly be carried out by autonomous drones," wrote the researchers in their study published at the time in Nature Machine Intelligence.

The engineers developed drones that would be particularly adept at recognizing humans from everything that surrounds them. They achieved this by using a deep learning application to improve the images that are collected by drones.

“We show that automated person detection under occlusion conditions can be notably improved by combining multi-perspective images before classification," explained the researchers in their work.

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