During search and rescue operations, every minute counts.
Going to Iceland had always been Lukasz’ biggest dream, but little did he know about the adventure that awaited him and his cousin Gabriela in the rough wilderness of Siglufjordur.
In 2016, the two Polish tourists with a knack for extreme hiking found themselves stranded on the side of a mountain in Northern Iceland at around midnight, with a pale sun slowly setting beyond the fjords. They had just crossed a dangerous path when rocks started to crumble under their footing. Unable to descend or continue climbing, their only option was to call the emergency services on the European Emergency Number Association’s (EENA) 112 to be located and rescued.
After the call, the Dalvik Search & Rescue Team was quickly dispatched, yet darkness and poor reception made it difficult for them to locate the cousins by GPS. A SAR volunteer for over 30 years and professional drone pilot, Haukur didn’t think twice about bringing his DJI Phantom 4 along. It took him three flight attempts from the other side of the lake and a ride on the boat to get closer to the mountains to finally see the glimpse of a phone’s flashlight.
When Garbiela saw the drone approaching, she felt relieved. It meant people were looking for them. Not only did the drone locate the stranded cousins in what seemed to be a hard to find recess, it also guided the rescue team through difficult terrain and poor visibility, as they helped the cousins descend the mountain.
The entire rescue operation lasted approximately 6 hours – an eternity, in Gabriela’s words – but it did have more than just a happy ending. On April 25, 2018, the Dalvik SAR team received the Outstanding Tech for Safety Award at EENA’s Annual 112 Awards, honoring their amazing rescue.
Every year in Iceland, there are 60 to 80 similar rescue operations and drones promise to make a positive impact on their success rate. EENA and DJI started to collaborate two years ago studying how public safety agencies can use drones in their work, and have just announced they are extending their research partnership to further integrate technology into rescue operations. “Saved by a drone”, a short documentary on the groundbreaking Icelandic mission, prove that drones, indeed, can save lives. Watch it here.