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Injured Man Is First Person Saved By a Police Drone In Canada 187

Posted by samzenpus
from the go-get-help-dronie dept.
AchilleTalon writes "As the US continues to grapple with the idea of letting drones fly through the country's airspace, our neighbors to the north have reported a new milestone for unmanned aerial technology: the first life saved using a drone. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police in the province of Saskatchewan announced yesterday that they successfully used the small Draganflyer X4-ES helicopter drone to locate and treat an injured man whose car had flipped over in a remote, wooded area in near-freezing temperatures. Zenon Dragan, president and founder of the Draganfly company that makes the drone, said in a statement: 'to our knowledge, this is the first time that a life may have been saved with the use of a sUAS (small Unmanned Aerial System) helicopter.'"
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Injured Man Is First Person Saved By a Police Drone In Canada

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  • Drones (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cold fjord (826450) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @11:16AM (#43702379)

    They are a powerful technology, for good, or evil.

    • Re:Drones (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cyberchondriac (456626) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @11:22AM (#43702407) Journal
      Pretty much true of any and all technology (maybe with a few exceedingly rare exceptions and even that's debatable); it's the intent behind the use of a tool or technology that is good or evil.
      • Exactly so. I wish more people would remember that when discussing various other technologies. Or maybe it would be better to say I wish that understanding was more broadly shared when discussing various other technologies, activities, and actions.

      • by ttucker (2884057)
        There really is a lot of public good that can arise from public safety organizations having access to a flying vehicle with FLIR capabilities that costs less than $5000/hr to operate....
      • Pretty much true of any and all technology (maybe with a few exceedingly rare exceptions and even that's debatable); it's the intent behind the use of a tool or technology that is good or evil.

        The only thing to understand before hand is limiting "Mission Creep". There have to be rules in place before hand or the technology will, without a doubt, be misused for evil.

  • Thats great.. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    When they are used for search and rescue. The problem is that our police force has been lobbying to get them for law enforcement, to be used to further spy on and exert control over the populace. If law enforcement wants to have drones for the sole and limited purpose of search and rescue thats fine by me. Id prefer if I didnt need to worry about some agency watching my every physical move.

    • by Seumas (6865)

      No, don't you see -- this justifies everything. Commence media saturation of the population to welcome the use of drones in all aspects of society, because if they one time saved a guy in a place in this one context, then it's worth any sacrifice or inconvenience or violation, don't you see?!

      • by gagol (583737)
        Exactly, this a great PR move... Makes it so general populace WANTS the police to use drones. After that, it will be used as a general spy tool.
        • Re:Thats great.. (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki&gmail,com> on Sunday May 12, 2013 @06:01PM (#43704757) Homepage

          I hate to break it to you, but we have so much wilderness here in Canada that once you get a dozen two miles outside of a main highway, or out past any major city especially outside of southern BC or the Windsor to Southern Quebec corridor, you can go for days without seeing anyone, or even a sign of civilization. Realistically, we have enough problems even here in Southern Ontario, you know part of the most densely packed part of the country finding people when we get smacked with a blizzard and have to go out an rescue them. Usually on snow mobiles, with volunteers. It's even worse in the rest of the country, where poor roads with very poor driving conditions lead people to get stranded.

          This is a very good use of technology, especially here in Canada. Where helicopters are cost prohibitive and the nearest airport can be 600-800km away from the search area.

          • by gagol (583737)
            While I live in such a place, the great majority of the populace live in very concentrated areas...
    • Re:Thats great.. (Score:4, Informative)

      by icebike (68054) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @12:49PM (#43702907)

      When they are used for search and rescue. The problem is that our police force has been lobbying to get them for law enforcement, to be used to further spy on and exert control over the populace. If law enforcement wants to have drones for the sole and limited purpose of search and rescue thats fine by me. Id prefer if I didnt need to worry about some agency watching my every physical move.

      When you research this device on the manufacturer's website they are very very careful to NEVER specify the RANGE.
      It can go 30mph (allegedly), and climb to 8000 feet but no range or duration is given, and it does this on a 5400mAh battery.
      (My android tablet has a bigger battery).

      I'd be very surprised if this thing could get out of sight of its operator.

      Which means they could have just look for the car and followed his tracks or sent a dog. But instead this will be used as an excuse to equip every police force with one of these things, and they won't be restricted to search and rescue.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tibit (1762298)

        Everything depends on the voltage :) If their battery is, say, 48V, you'd need a good armful of android tablets to beat that.

      • by deimtee (762122)
        5400mAh @ 14.8 volts.
        It's about the same mAh capacity, but three or four times the voltage of most tablet batteries, giving it much more energy storage.
        I agree that they do try to hide the range stats though.
        • by mirix (1649853)

          So that would be 80Wh, or more properly 288kJ. So it could run a 60W bulb for a little more than an hour... (well, discharge rate affects the actual capacity - higher rates of discharge will reduce the total output to less than that).
          So this thing is more inline with a laptop battery for capacity.

          288kJ happens to be roughly equal to about 8ml of diesel, just for fun... So even with the poor efficiency of combustion engines, there's just no comparison.

      • I'd be very surprised if this thing could get out of sight of its operator.

        It's an RC device. It's not supposed to get out of sight of its operator.

    • Quit FUDing! Drones just saved their first life! And after only nine years of CIA drones spying and blowing people up.

      Clearly they are the greatest boon to public health since penicillin.

  • I can assure you hundreds and maybe thousands of people have been saved by drones of all sizes and shapes - but possibly the first time a drone used by the police has saved a life...

  • Figures. (Score:5, Funny)

    by SpeZek (970136) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @11:29AM (#43702443) Journal
    Of course we Canadians would use drones for polite and considerate tasks. We have a reputation to keep up!
    • Sometimes good deeds go unpunished. What would have happened if that blob on the FLIR was a napping grizzly bear?

      I wonder what the relative costs are for the drone or a Cessna with a FLIR camera?

      • by jythie (914043)
        Generally the advantage of drones against something like a Cessna is the lower cost (both up front and ongoing) and of course needing much less specialized operators. Aircraft have always been a limited resource, but at these costs even small local forces could keep one or two around.
  • Throw that drone a ticker tape parade!
  • by Dereck1701 (1922824) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @11:44AM (#43702553)

    As with most government tools we will only hear about the good things until after they become common place. When tazers were originally deployed they were a "replacement only for lethal force", now they are used at the drop of the hat against loudmouthed teens, nonviolent protestors, and pregnant women with little to no repercussions. Right now it is all about saving people lost in the woods and catching murders, but 5 years after they are more ubiquitous you can be guaranteed that the stories will begin to flow of women catching one hovering outside their bathroom window, protestors finding unflattering images of themselves on police forums & former boyfriends/girlfriends of officers being stalked by drones (much like the cases of police misusing official databases to track/harass).

    • All Slashdotters live in basements with the shutters closed, no dangers of having unflattering images of themselves on police forums.

      As for the "former boyfriends/girlfriends" part, that's also applicable. You can't date JPEGs.

      • You can't date JPEGs.

        Sure you can. Right click - properties - details tab, and click on the date taken field.

    • When tazers were originally deployed they were a "replacement only for lethal force", now they are used at the drop of the hat against loudmouthed teens, nonviolent protestors, and pregnant women with little to no repercussions.

      Because police never used much more lethal guns in this same manner?

  • Correction (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hey! (33014) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @11:44AM (#43702557) Homepage Journal

    The man's life was saved by a policeman using an infrared camera which happened to be mounted on a drone.

    It's important to get the gist of the story right here, because the decision to use drones domestically is a matter of trade offs. So it makes a difference whether you draw the spurious lesson "drones save lives", or the correct lesson, "infrared cameras save lives, drones save money in deploying such cameras in comparison to conventional helicopters or fixed-wing aircraft." One might reasonably choose to risk civil liberties because of certain life-or-death situation, but not choose to do so if its a matter of another ten or twenty bucks a year on your state or provincial taxes.

    • by arcite (661011)
      The only reason why the drone is piloted by a human is because the AI technology hasn't yet caught up. Give it ten years and these drones will pilot themselves.
    • Translation: "I really, really want to find a way to slam drones... but I can't, so I'll nitpick, play semantic games, and on a heavy spin and smokescreen so I can pretend that the drone really wasn't all the important".

      • by hey! (33014)

        Actually, I don't want to slam drones. I think they can be used responsibly and economically. But *responsible* isn't a given.

        As for my playing semantic "games", that's a richly ironic accusation.

    • Well, it's not quite so easy. You can have drones for orders of magnitude less cost than full on helicopters/planes...say $10-100K/drone instead of $10M/plane. Plus they can fly in inclement weather with no risk to humans. They can stay "on station" for days instead of hours. You can use 100s or 1,000s of them to search an area non stop until the mission is complete without having to have 1,000s of pilots ready to go at a moment's notice.

      When drones start being used to evacuating people from disaster areas,

      • by hey! (33014)

        When drones start being used to evacuating people from disaster areas, they will be able to perform more risky landings without risk to pilots.

        I agree. Let's have that conversation when that starts happening.

  • ...it is the use to which the tool is put. With powerful tools in the hands of government, it becomes a matter of how much one trusts said government.

  • by guttentag (313541) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @11:53AM (#43702605) Journal
    If you throw a crack pipe at the head of a bank robber and distract the robber long enough to subdue the robber, you could say that a crack pipe saved the life of the bank manager.

    The effect of a tool depends on how it is used.

    Then again, a person carrying a crack pipe at a bank would probably have used the tool for its usual purpose, and would be unable to successfully aim the pipe at the robber's head, so the odds of a crack pipe routinely saving lives are about as slim as the odds of a drone routinely saving lives.
  • There's a link in the article to a ~2 minute IR video that was provided and annotated by the drone's maker. It shows how human body heat clearly contrasts with snowy background, even from miles away. I'd be curious to see the same video shot in Summer temps. I suspect the range falls by 50% or more.

    • Dude. This is Canada. In summer the snow just gets a little bit warmer!

    • by mhotchin (791085)

      The flip side is that in the summer the urgency (based on the weather, at least) goes down. If the drone can't find you because it's too warm outside, you probably won't freeze to death.

  • It would be better to equip every person and every vehicle with a GPS and a transponder, which could be queried at any time by police or other government agency performing essential public safety work. It could also serve as a universal form of ID.
  • So this drone was taught first aid? Did it stitch up a leg? Reset a broken bone?

    • by tompaulco (629533)

      So this drone was taught first aid? Did it stitch up a leg? Reset a broken bone?

      I'm in favor of the drones now. They have apparently been taught how to diagnose, administer first aid, presumably CPR as well. Why do all that if they are just going to be used to spy on us. They must have had good intentions all along.

  • The story is spin, not to mention inaccurate.

    The drone didn't do anything to 'treat' the man, as stated in the article and summary.

    The drone spotted him using an infrared camera that could as easily have been mounted on the manned helicopter that didn't, for whatever reason, spot him when it went out. Not sure why the helicopter didn't also check the area where the man's mobile phone signal had last been spotted (which is where the drone went) but whatever.

  • by RogueWarrior65 (678876) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @04:58PM (#43704321)

    I happen to be a search & rescue volunteer here in the southwestern US. (As a matter of interest, we are all 100% volunteers. We don't get paid for anything except fuel when we're on a search. We buy all of our own equipment and devote a lot of our own time to train regularly.) Recently, we were approached by some university students who built an inexpensive UAV ($3000) specifically for SAR uses. I personally though their platform had a lot of merit. It's a low-cost foam airplane that uses a customized version of Ardupilot to take photos regularly while flying a pattern over a designated region. They can photograph a square mile in about 30 minutes. You then have a couple of people do a photo analysis of the results. The photos are all geotagged so you can pull a coordinate off the photo for some object of interest. Sadly, the political climate is such that the tin-foil hat types have scared the county board of supervisors and the local Sheriff's office away from even trying the platform out on some training exercises. What's worse is that even though our SAR organization is an independent 501(c)3 and not part of any law-enforcement agency, the managers still won't try out the concept. I wonder how people would feel if some child died of exposure because we didn't have this tool in the toolbox.

    This platform is also an order of magnitude cheaper than a DraganFlyer and can cover a hell of a lot more ground without changing out the battery. 15 minutes of air time isn't nearly enough.

  • Most libertarians have no problem with drones - they're cheaper to operate than manned aerial vehicles, and have a lot more on-station time. Nobody will argue with drones being sent to find someone lost in the woods.

    The problem arises when drones are "on patrol" with narrowband radar looking into houses on fishing expeditions. And so the question remains - what appropriate checks and balances exist search with court permission?

  • So what if Canada "saves" someone with a drone. I bet the US will be the first one to hunt down and kill a fugitive with one. Stick to your strengths, I always say.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.

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