By John Lauritsen

ROCHESTER, Minn. (WCCO) — A hunter’s life was likely saved thanks to the help of a drone.

The 84-year-old man went missing in a wooded area Saturday near the town of Byron.

First responders began searching the area for the man, but they didn’t have much luck until Rochester police used a new type of technology.

“He had some health issues. He has fallen before so they were concerned that he had fallen and was down and really couldn’t be seen,” said Dave Thomson of the Rochester Police Department.

The man had left his home around 3:45 Saturday afternoon. And when he didn’t return hours later, his wife became concerned. His truck was found stuck in the mud. And it became clear he had wandered off looking for help.

By the time the search began it was dark and weather conditions added to an already difficult situation.

It kept the State Patrol from flying their search helicopter.

“We were concerned that within a couple hours it was going to turn from a rescue into a recovery,” said Thomson.

So Thomson and Officer Rey Caban decided to use some technology of their own.

Nine months ago Rochester Police got a drone with infrared capabilities. Unlike helicopters, it can fly in low visibility.

rochester police department drone Drone Helps Rochester Police Find Missing 84 Year Old Man

(credit: CBS)

“It basically picks up any heat deviations, any degrees that’s different from whatever else is around it,” said Officer Caban.

After searching for about an hour, and after several false alarms, Officer Caban got a hit.

“You can see someone laying on the ground with another two responders next to them,” said Caban.

“He actually was down on the ground in the wet, swampy area. So he was partially submerged,” said Thomson.

The hunter had become stuck in a foot of mud and was semi-conscious when first responders got to him. He was rushed to the hospital and is expected to make a full recovery.

“Stoked, yeah. We were totally thrilled the way it ended up,” said Thomson.

Police believe that without the drone, they likely would not have found the man Saturday night.

They say right after they got the drone it helped them solve an arson case by tracking down suspects that were hiding.


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