It is not uncommon for Ada County’s 911 Emergency dispatchers to get calls from recreationists or hunters who get turned around in the Foothills and need help getting out.
Our deputies know the area well and can usually figure out where people are, but then they have to determine how to safely travel through the same challenging terrain — or hope cell service holds up if they can guide people back.
Deputies now have a new option – one they were able to use to great effect early Monday: a new thermal detection unmanned aerial aircraft.
The new drones can scan for body heat, or engine heat, or anything else that gives off warmth. It also has audio speaker and spotlight functions.
All of that is in addition to the standard video capability.
Dispatchers got a call just after 11:30 p.m. Sunday from a pair of elk hunters who went up the 8th Street extension area earlier in the day and found themselves in a ravine in the dark – and couldn’t find their way out of the thick brush.
Deputies were eventually able to find the hunters’ general location in ravine by spotting the flashing strobe lights on their headlamps.
The drone pilot then flew it over and used thermal detection to find the hunters — then turned on the spotlight to light up a safe route and lead them out of the ravine.
The hunters were in luck – we just received the new Mavic 2 Enterprise drones on Friday afternoon. Monday morning was the first time our drone pilots got a chance to use them in an official capacity – and they totally delivered.