One thousand lives saved by drones

Drone manufacturer DJI’s interactive rescue map, which plots areas where drones have played a starring role in rescuing human life, has now passed the 1,000 milestone.

The latest statistics compiled by the map show drones being directly involved in saving more than 1,000 people from danger around the world.

One of the most recent examples involved two hikers in New York State who lost their way at nightfall and were unable to lead rescuers to their location as their mobile phone battery was running low.

The Sheriff’s Office UAS Unit finally found them with the help of a drone equipped with a thermal camera.

North America leads the world with 303 lives having been recorded to have been saved in the region. Europe has 179 lives saved; 78 in Asia; 21 in Latin America; while twelve lives were saved in Oceania.

Africa has only seven recorded incidents; of them were in Cape Town, South Africa and one in Rwanda (that case in Kabgayi where Zipline still looking for a footing in drone delivery, scored big when they delivered blood to a hospital where a two-year old girl was dying of malaria).

All in all, the saved lives were compiled from just over 600 rescue incidents in 39 countries.

“Drones are an essential live-saving tool for search and rescue operators around the world, and it is encouraging to see how civilians with drones often volunteer to help in critical emergencies,” said Christina Zhang, DJI Senior Director of Corporate Strategy.

“Since we started compiling drone rescue statistics in 2017, we have made it our mission to share with the world how important drone technology is for the men and women who put their lives on the line for us all to save people from serious harm.”

Drones often prove the key device needed to save people whose life is in grave danger. It is no surprise that the recorded drone interventions in South Africa are confined to Cape Town, where the Western Cape Emergency Services Department became the first government related entity in acquire a Remote Operator’s Licence in December 2020.

The drones have helped rescuers from local rescue group, the Wilderness Search and Rescue (WSAR) –  network of government agencies, and civilian volunteer organisations, who partner in search and rescue – locate hikers lost in the Table Mountains faster so they can be rescued in time.

Recently, the WSAR and its partners in the province had a really busy weekend where they had to use drones to rescue two lost hikers and a woman who had lost control of her vehicle and drove 180 down a steep slope.

The DJI Drone Rescue Map tracks incidents when police, firefighters, rescue squads and bystanders have used drones to save people from danger since the first known rescue in 2013. DJI compiles drone rescues from news stories and social media posts from authoritative sources such as police departments, fire departments and volunteer rescue squads.

Each incident is entered on the Drone Rescue Map with the location and date, a brief description, a link to the original story or post, and an easy way to share those incidents online.

The map and DJI’s tally do not include incidents when a drone is simply used as part of a larger search process; instead, a drone must have directly located, assisted and/or rescued a person in peril.

“We are grateful that civilian drones have saved so many people around the world,” said Adam Welsh, DJI Global Head of Policy. “We appeal to the public and other stakeholders in society to spread the word how drones can really help and that restricting rescue agencies’ access to this technology – because of lack of funding or for other reasons – puts lives at risk.”

Rescue teams around the globe can add their stories of drone rescues by submitting them using the form at the bottom of the map page.


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