The search for two hikers who went missing last weekend while trekking through the Grand Canyon National Park is the first such major search and rescue operation to make use of drones. The Grand Canyon is the only national park in the United States equipped with its own fleet of drones specifically used in search and rescue operations, with a total of five drones and four certified operators.

This helps greatly reduce the costs of search and rescue operations in the park, which measures over 2,000 square miles (5,179 square kilometers). The search earlier in the week did involve three ground teams as well as a boat and a helicopter search and rescue team. So far, search efforts have failed to locate the pair.

While the drones have a battery life of just 20 minutes, rangers are able to cover more ground by charging them on the fly as they move to different search locations. Operators watch video playback in real time but also review the tapes at the end of the day searching for any clues of survivors.

The use of private drones is prohibited in national parks outside of search and rescue operations.


Photo: Christian Mehlführer – Wikipedia