Texas Game Wardens have demonstrated the effectiveness of their drone program in locating a missing individual in Callahan County. In an incident that occurred one evening in early June, drone operator Michael Hummert received a call for assistance in finding a man with health issues who had gone missing. Employing a heat-seeking drone, Hummert embarked on the search operation.
“After approximately 30-35 minutes of flight, I detected a heat signature in the woods roughly 500 yards north of the location from where the male had started walking,” recounted Hummert. He promptly relayed the GPS coordinates to the ground units, providing them with precise information.
“Using radio communication, I guided them to the area while simultaneously observing the drone’s feed,” Hummert added, “and they successfully made contact with the male.”
Fortunately, the missing person was found in satisfactory condition, albeit thirsty. Hummert had been operating a drone equipped with thermal capabilities for approximately eight months. He emphasized that the drone-assisted search and rescue missions he had participated in typically concluded in 30 minutes or less, a significant improvement over the hours it might take a ground team. Many of these cases involve elderly individuals who have wandered away from home.
“These instances truly showcase the power and utility of thermal cameras,” commented Hummert.
Lieutenant Game Warden and program supervisor Matthew Bridgefarmer provided further insights into the drone program’s history. Initiated in 2018, the program now boasts 50 active pilots distributed throughout the department in various locations across the state. Their fleet comprises 80 drones, with contributions from private funding. Some drones are older and larger, while others are newer and smaller, featuring thermal imaging capabilities.
Bridgefarmer highlighted the program’s enhanced search and rescue effectiveness, thanks to the drones’ ability to detect temperature variations. Humans, for instance, may appear cooler than objects that retain significant heat, such as rocks on a hot day.
“The camera itself is an incredibly sensitive piece of equipment, representing the technological aspect. However, there is also an artistic aspect involved in interpreting and deciphering the thermal imagery,” explained Bridgefarmer.
You can also read: Heroic Motorcycle Salesmen Save Customer’s Life with Helmet Insistence
The department averages 25-40 missions per month statewide, encompassing various tasks beyond locating missing persons. Drones are employed in suspect searches, accident reconstruction, research mapping, and disaster response. The live feed from the drones can be streamed remotely, enabling other team members to observe and assist.
Game Wardens extend their aerial support to any agency in need, offering a valuable time-saving resource in urgent cases.
“It’s an incredible tool,” Hummert concluded, emphasizing the efficacy and significance of the drone program.