Firefighters had to use a drone to save a teenager and a younger boy when they became stuck on a rock in the middle of a raging current. Rescue crews tried to reach the pair in a raft -- but when the waves became overwhelming they paddled back to shore and used a small unmanned aircraft to toe a line over to the boys.
The kids, age 18 and 12, were boating down the Little Androscoggin River in Mechanic Falls, Maine on Tuesday when they became stranded on a slippery rock surface. Only one was wearing a life jacket, and they couldn't safely navigate the unpredictable rapids to shore. So Fire Chief Frank Roma, of Auburn Maine, a county in the state's southern region, attached a rope line to his own DJI Phantom 3 and piloted the drone out over the middle of the river. He then sent a life jacket over the line and used the Phantom to watch from above.
“I was able to take the drone out to him; lower it down to his level,” Roma told WMTW, a local TV station. “He was able to disconnect it and get the life vest on and then I was able to put the drone back up as an aerial observation.”
Multiple videos and images on the Auburn Fire Department's Facebook page detail the rescue, in which neither boy was injured.
Cheif Roma said he purchased the UAV with his own money but sees obvious new advantages for rescue teams if they invest in drone equipment. This rescue comes only weeks after lifeguard crews elsewhere in the U.S. began deploying small unmanned aircraft to patrol for sharks and other beach threats.
“I think we've only begun to scratch the surface for what their full capabilities can be in the emergencies field,” Roma told WMTW-TV. “I was able to see exactly what the drone was seeing. I was able to direct it to where it needed to be.”