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Drone pilot locates missing 82-year-old man after three-day search

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The case for consumer drones got a boost after an amateur pilot ended a search-and-rescue effort last weekend by locating a missing ophthalmologist, who suffers from dementia, in a bean field in Wisconsin.

David Lesh, who normally uses the drone to make videos for his ski and snowboard business in Colorado, says he decided to try and help after learning of the search while visiting his girlfriend.

“I never thought that I would be using it to find somebody,” Lesh told NBC, saying he spotted 82-year-old Guillermo DeVenecia, who was found shoeless but unharmed, in 20 minutes after scoping a 200-acre field from the air.

The help from Lesh and his drone spared volunteers hours of trudging through a muddy field, and ended a three-day effort that had involved search dogs, a helicopter and hundreds of people.

The incident may also put additional pressure on the FAA to review its policy on the use of drones, many of which weigh under five pounds. The aviation regulator has so far taken a hard line on drones, banning their commercial use altogether, and ordering a well-known Texas-based search-and-rescue organization to ground its drones (the Texas group has since defied the order after a recent court ruling).

“Drones can very quickly and efficiently save lives and improve industries compared to traditional approaches,” said lawyer Brendan Schulman, who is challenging the FAA policy before the courts on behalf of drone users. “This is a technology our leaders should be embracing and promoting, right now.”

While there is major investment and a number of strong business cases for drones, including farming and news gathering, the devices are also creating social friction; recent incidents involve an assault at the beach, and a man arrested for flying a drone outside medical exam rooms. But as I’ve argued before, in looking at the law of drones, aggressive or creepy behavior can be addressed through state and city laws without the intervention of the FAA.

13 Responses to “Drone pilot locates missing 82-year-old man after three-day search”

  1. I don’t see why UAV operations such as this can’t simply file a standard flight plan with the FAA. SAR ops taking place in this box up to this altitude should be sufficient. That way the FAA would be aware of the flight and would have option to approve/disapprove depending on other air ops within the designated air space. It should be that straight forward as far as I’m concerned.

  2. All of you are right and wrong. The dictionary, and all of it’s words and meanings are entirely put together, and even updated based on popularity. There is no real constant definition of a word, because words, their meanings, and all languages themselves are constantly evolving. The only real thing that matters, is if you understand what is being written or spoken. Aside from that, nit picking about which words to use is a giant waste of all of your time, and quite embarrassing for you, but amusing for me. At least I didn’t waste any time.

  3. William Ball

    Silly people, calling them drones……. They are multirotors,,,,,, a simple 4 motor electric helicopter with a flight time of 8 minutes for the most part. Then the battery needs to be changed. You must be the same people that think every gun is an “assault rifle”

    • Thanks for the comment, Macing Daddyington — this debate has broken out in our comments before. Some enthusiasts of the, uh, devices fear that the word “drone” is inherently negative and is used by the media to stir up hysteria.

      I can see the point but it most of the UVA (or RC plane) community appear to have embraced “drone” now too, so it seems the genie is out of the bottle, linguistically speaking..

      • Aleksei Yoberov

        No. What they were piloting is a quadcopter and not a drone because it was not flying itself autonomously. Just because many drones are quads does not mean that all quads/multicopters are drones.

        • Josh Bradshaw

          You are wrong. A drone has nothing to do with flying autonomously. That is a feature that some drones have. Drones are remote piloted aerial vehicles with a live video feed in the first person perspective, like what a pilot would be. I have seen a bit of bad information in this thread. RC planes/helicopters are flown from the operators perspective on the ground. i have a rc helicopter with a video camera on it. It isnt live feed though. That is very different from from my quadcopter drone, which is also very different from my gas powered drone with a gimbal which requires 2 crew members. You guys should read before you just start blowing bullshit out of your mouths.

      • Aleksei Yoberov

        It does not have to do with the stigma of the word, it is misinformed individuals using the language incorrectly. A drone is autonomous. A quadcopter is manned. This quad manned, and therefore it is not a drone. Just because many drones use the multicopter form factor does not mean that all multicopters are drones, or vice versa.

        The only valid argument that could even be considered to define this as a “drone” is that the control board that it is using most likely automatically stabilizes the unit.

      • William Ball

        Wrong Jeff,
        I am a member of that said community of RC enthusiasts and we hate the name “drone” they are not drones, they are a multirotor RC helicopter. Flight time barley exceed 8 minutes in most setups. Leave it to Big brother to use the media to further it’s “frightened” agenda. Not every (or any) multirotor is a drone, Drones are for our military and fly for hours. Oh yeah, and not every gun is an “assault rifle”. (but the media would have you think they are).



        • deathspawner

          The term “Drone” refers to unmanned aerial vehicles, which a multirotor RC helicopter is. You might be an RC enthusiast, but that doesn’t make you an authority on the categorization of a term. It is what it is.

    • Kristopher Derentz

      While some to embrace it, I think its still wrong for the media to call them that as they get put into the same class as military drones. Using UAV or Multi Rotor R/C is much more appropriate. The media likes the “Drone” word as its more of an attention grabbing headline,.