Unmanned aerial vehicles have become increasingly popular in the last several years amongst hobbyists. Taking photographs of beautiful sunsets, capturing cinematic videos of sweeping landscapes or racing aircraft competitively against friends have all become aerial shot staples.

However, drones have far more capabilities than just capturing artistic shots and racing.

One unsung, less publicized aspect of drones is their contribution to humanitarian endeavors; the simple ability of drones to save lives. This phenomenon has piqued little significant public interest until now.

The global leader in the manufacturing of drones, DJI, has released verified data concerning incidents where drones have come to the rescue.

The company has compiled cases where DJI aircraft and the aircraft of competing manufacturers have played a significant role in saving lives. Inevitably, far more cases have occurred on a daily basis across the globe but have gone largely unreported.

In one incident in China, a DJI Phantom lowered supplies to distressed people who were standing aloft a mountain of flood-water debris.

Admittedly, with recent advances in technology, there are now more elaborately engineered drones that can be customized for such tasks.

For example, the recently released M200 from DJI is a multi-purpose platform that could be potentially customized for humanitarian purposes.

The M200 models are water resistant with an IP43 rating. The aircraft also has a hot-swappable dual battery system and a 35-minute flight time which helps in conducting longer flights. The aircraft’s safety features include obstacle avoidance sensors facing forward, up and down, as well as an ADS-B receiver for receiving advisory information from manned aircraft close by. Compatible cameras are the DJI XT, X4S, X5S and Z30.

With the Z30 camera the operator can zoom in for a closer inspection of a disaster area. The infrared XT camera can see heat signatures of people in search and rescue scenarios. The M210 RTK is identical to the M210 but has an additional RTK unit which ensures centimeter precision navigation.

A variety of other examples of drones playing a crucial role in saving lives include rescuers in Turkey who deployed a drone to locate a lost film crew – some members of which began to suffer from hypothermia. A pair of kayakers in South Carolina were located during nightfall by first responders using a drone equipped with thermal imaging. In Canada, a drone with an infrared camera helped first responders find people lost in snow.

It is evident with these and other examples, that drones can play a significant role in helping first responders save lives in perilous situations. As more drone aircraft are deployed in these scenarios, more impressive heroic stories like those detailed above will arise.