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How Sask. RCMP used a drone to help stranded hikers


After a group of hikers became stranded by an unexpected rise in water levels, RCMP officers on-scene took to the skies to track them down.

“They were well prepared hikers, they went into an area they knew,” said Superintendent Devin Pugh, the officer in charge of support services with Saskatchewan RCMP.

It happened June 16 along the Rice River Canyon, when a group of four friends were caught by a rising river overnight.

"In fact, one of their backpacks, one of their tents actually got washed away,” Pugh said.

Despite a lack of cell coverage, the well-equipped hikers were able to call for help. As a search effort was coordinated on the ground, Carrot River RCMP officers deployed their eye in the sky, a small drone with big capabilities.

“We located those individuals using our thermal camera, so we're able to say, 'Okay, that's where they are',” Pugh said. “We used the coordinates we get from that drone, we provided that to our searchers on the ground. They were able to walk in, and meet with the hikers, coordinate the rescue."

RCMP used drone technology in a remote rescue operation. (Cole Davenport / CTV News) The drone was also used to guide the entire group out of the brush, making quick work out of what could have become a major search and rescue operation.

“Historically, a ground search of that magnitude in that terrain could literally take days,” Pugh said.

It’s an example of how Saskatchewan RCMP officers are embracing drone technology, governed by a set of protocols for when they should be used.

RCMP used drone technology in a remote rescue operation. (Photo courtesy: Sask. RCMP)As of April, every detachment in the province has access to a small drone, with the option to call in more specialized remotely piloted aircraft on-board a pair of support vans available province-wide when called for.

"It's a game changer for our policing operations, not only in search and rescue, we're utilizing the quick response of our aerial support drones to be able to apprehend criminals as well,” Pugh said.

Ryan Beston with Queen City Drones said more widespread use in a range of industries and applications, along with the recent rescue, are examples of how the technology has progressed.

"The technology is there for us to use, and we don't need to lose anybody. We can find them right away, with thermal imaging, the distance these drones can reach, the remote areas they can reach, the sky's the limit,” Beston said.

RCMP used drone technology in a remote rescue operation. (Cole Davenport / CTV News) Saskatchewan RCMP are among the first to deploy the technology on a province-wide scale in policing, but pilot programs are currently testing the technology at a handful of Alberta detachments. Top Stories

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