Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Drones search Grand Canyon for missing hikers

AP photo by Brandon Torres
Drones are being used for the first time in a major search at a national park, in an attempt to locate two lost hikers in the Grand Canyon, Astrid Galvan reports for The Associated Press. "Grand Canyon is the only national park with its own fleet of unmanned aircraft for locating people who have gotten lost, stranded, injured or killed. Under a program that began last fall, it has five drones and four certified operators."

Drones have been used before at Grand Canyon in other capacities, Galvan writes. "In November, after a visitor drove off a cliff and died, drones were sent in to examine the trees and brush and make sure it was safe for a helicopter to fly in and lift the car out." One month later, "rangers used a drone to locate a woman who had jumped to her death. Then they rappelled down to retrieve the body."

Matt Vandzura, chief ranger at Grand Canyon, told Galvan, "Our historic model was to take the helicopter to look and see," but he said now drones can offer "that same close look but without putting any people at risk. It has dramatically increased our ability to keep our people safe."

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