An article in The Blaze last week details how hobby Drone Pilots are helping in search and rescue efforts, including helping to find an 82-year-old man with dementia and hearing difficulties in Virginia.
“Using a first-person-view controller, [Drone Pilot David] Lesh flew roughly 200 feet above the ground and scoured the massive field for signs of life. In what would have taken hundreds of searchers hours to accomplish on foot, Lesh covered the area in just minutes” — and found the missing man. And it was just in time: by then, the man had been missing for three days, and was so dehydrated that he was near death.
Big win, right? Right — but not to the Federal Aviation Administration. Rather than turn a blind eye to this clearly non-commercial use of drones, the FAA actually sent a letter ordering Texas search and rescue group EquuSearch to stop using drones to find missing people. EquuSearch responded by taking the FAA to federal court — and the court ruled that the FAA’s order was “not a formal cease-and-desist letter” and there was an “absence of any identified legal consequences flowing from” ignoring it.