LOS ANGELES — Despite their use in conflicts abroad and a general skepticism among the public when it comes to safety and privacy, drones have actually helped save a several dozen lives, a new study finds.
DJI, the world’s leading drone manufacturer, published its first-ever report examining the lifesaving ability of unmanned aerial vehicles.
The company found that since 2013, drones have saved at least 59 people in 18 separate incidents. In one incident, a drone remarkably saved 14 individuals; most recorded incidents were found to have occurred in the U.S., Canada, or China (where DJI was first established.)
Interestingly, 38 of the 59 total lives saved happened between May 2016 and February 2017, a rate that would be equivalent to nearly one life saved by drone a week over the course of an entire year.
The most recent incident in the United States where a drone aided in rescue efforts occurred in January when officials used a thermal imaging on a device to locate two missing kayakers. Last month, four missing skiers and snowboarders in western Canada were located thanks to an infrared-equipped drone.
Drones were found to be particularly good at saving lives during floods, as 31 people have been rescued thanks to the devices.
DJI disclosed, however, that the recorded instances of drones rescuing humans were mostly pulled from international media reports, which could very well make the figure found in the report much lower than the actual number of lives saved.
For example, there were major floods in December 2015 in India, during which over 200 people were purportedly spotted and saved by drones. Since rescue numbers couldn’t be substantiated, DJI excluded the figures from their report.
“The clear conclusion is that drones are regularly saving lives around the world,” the report said. “This is occurring even though professional rescue crews are just beginning to adopt UAS technology.”
The report explains how with improved technology, awareness, and utilization, drones won’t just be some fun toy for hobbyists.
As an example, they provide evidence from a previous study, which showed how a drone can locate a victim within a one square kilometer area six times faster than a human.