ABC News reports that rescue crews didn’t have to stumble through every destroyed building in their search for victims after a tornado ravaged a corner of Alabama this week: They used heat-seeking drones to let them know whether there was anyone beneath the ruins.
In so doing, they joined the increasing ranks of public safety agencies across the U.S. and around the world that have employed unmanned thermal-imaging aircraft during critical situations, including manhunts, wildfires and other natural disasters.
In tornado-stricken Alabama, Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones said Tuesday it was not clear if drones spotted any bodies or anyone injured or trapped in the debris. But at the least, they helped reassure searchers that they hadn’t overlooked anyone in the aftermath of the twister that killed 23 people.
“They gave us an overhead view of areas we might have missed had we been at eye level on land,” Jones said.
Thermal-imaging drones use infrared cameras that find heat sources on the ground, in buildings or in water, at any time of day, whether from a human or animal, alive or newly deceased, or from other things, such as flames.
The devices can transmit a color-coded image in real time to a laptop, cellphone, tablet or large-screen monitor. Depending on the settings the user chooses, heat sources can be made to stand out in bright red, white or other colors.
Law enforcement officers and firefighters who use such airborne technology swear by it as a tool to protect and save lives. Drones are cheaper than manned aircraft such as helicopters, which can’t get into tight spaces and require more training.
Officials in China, Nepal and Mexico used drones — with and without heat-detecting equipment — after devastating earthquakes. Firefighters battling fast-moving blazes in California’s woods employed heat-seeking drones to map fires and search burned homes. They also have been used to locate missing people, as in the case of an 11-year-old girl found last year in the thick woods of North Carolina. Continue reading about how drones were used after Alabama Tornado.
Source: ABC News