Launching a drone equipped with an infrared camera that can see heat images, Moore County sheriff's deputies made short work Thursday night of what could have been a nightlong search for a missing 11-year-old child.
The drone picked up a “heat signature” in woods across a road from the girl’s home 15 minutes after Lt. Tim Davis launched it, and he guided deputies on foot to the spot, Sheriff Neil Godfrey said Friday.
The girl was found asleep under brush and heavy limbs, Godfrey said. Her parents called the sheriff’s office about 10:30 p.m. after hours of not being able to find her, Chief Deputy Frank Rodriguez.
She was “a little cold and wet,” but otherwise unharmed, Rodriguez said.
“This is a perfect example of why we invested in this drone capability,” Godfrey said.
The basic Matrice 200 drone is priced at about $5,300 on Amazon. Moore County’s drone has infrared and conventional cameras and GPS positioning.
The GPS data are sent back to the pilot, giving him a way to direct ground personnel.
With the night search, Rodriguez said, the deputies looking for the girl were in the area the drone could “see.” They showed up on the camera as well as the girl, and Davis could direct them by radio toward where he was seeing her.
Without the drone, the sheriff said, deputies would have had to ask another agency to launch a helicopter that could search for the child’s heat signature.
“As a parent, I am happy for the child and the family that last night’s flight was a success, and as the Sheriff, I am proud of Lieutenant Davis and our deputies,” Godfrey said.
The sheriff’s office got the current drone last fall, Rodriguez said. It’s standard-light camera is equipped with long zoom capability, making it more useful than earlier machines that deputies had.