In the majority of missing-person cases, time is often not on the side of police.
Every hour that ticks by in a search decreases the probability the missing will be found. Often faced with treacherous weather and terrain conditions during a search, police are starting to see drone tech as the most effective solution when it comes to covering wide territory.
It’s no surprise that drone adoption by police and SAR agencies coincides with more successful missing-persons finds. Case in point – Tippecanoe County, Ind.
Last week, local teacher Krista Perdue was located near her home after being reported missing for several days.
After the search for Perdue came up empty, an anonymous local resident offered the use of their drone. Within hours, Perdue was found near a retention pond near her neighborhood. Although, police say she was dehydrated and disoriented, she was expected to fully recover after receiving medical attention.
“That was a no-brainer,” said Tippecanoe County Sheriff Barry Richard speaking about the drone owner’s offer. “We obviously took the owner’s offer up on that.”
The incident opened Richard’s eyes about the many ways drones could save lives in SAR and missing-person cases.
“If we did not locate the individual when we did, who is to say another night out in the elements or another 12-24 hours without being located, it could have ended up being a lot more serious or a fatal situation.”
Richard says his department plans to order drones in the near future as well as training personnel to pilot them and follow federal regulations.
In a similar case in Phoenix last week, police planned to deploy UAVs to locate a missing man reported missing. Ramon Avizo is believed to have found trouble after driving his all-terrain vehicle near the Salt and Gila river bottoms. Although drones were scheduled to be deployed, it is not known as of yet if they were successful in locating Avizo.
The Tippecanoe case is not the first instance of a volunteer drone operators saving the day by taking to the air in locating a missing person.
In 2014, 82-year-old Guillermo DeVenecia went missing for three days as police used search dogs, a helicopter, and hundreds of volunteers covered heavily wooded areas and fields around home with no success. It took David Lesh about 20 minutes to find DeVenecia with a drone.