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Drones are changing search and rescue operations in Weber County


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OGDEN – New technology is making rescues faster and safer in Weber County and a recent rescue at North Fork Park proved it.

Drone manufacturer DJI let deputies try out their newest rescue models and they said the technology took out nearly all of the guesswork.

Having a bird's-eye view is important in a search and rescue but adding infrared vision can be life-changing.

"Within 10 minutes of us being on scene, that person knows he's been found," said Lt. Mark Horton who is on the Weber County Search and Rescue Team. "He's just got to wait now."

Horton said that's what happened during a recent search after a snowboarder became stranded. The cutting-edge drone was able to put a spotlight on the man, and it showed rescuers where to go.

"I had eyes on our patient and good solid coordinates before our teams even left the parking lot," explained Kyle Nordfords who was behind the controls that night.

He said they had a general location from a single cellphone call before the snowboarder lost his signal.

"It was great for him to be able to look up, see the drone and know that he was found," Nordfords said.

Getting out proved to be a challenge too since it wasn't safe to go back up the mountain. The drone helped map out an escape path.

"And with the drone's help, that course out was sent to everybody's phones and they knew exactly how, the safest way to get off the mountain," Horton said.

They said this type of technology has changed the game when it comes to search and rescue. This operation would normally take about eight hours, but they said it lasted only half that.

"It just makes the rescue so much faster and safer for everybody involved, from our patient to also our heroes, our rescuers on the ground," Horton added.

Nordfords said that's important because while the technology is impressive, it's as always, the many volunteer search and rescue team members that make all of this possible.

He added, "The guys that are out there braving the elements and putting their own lives in danger to be able to rescue these people."

With those newer drones, the type Weber County now has, Horton said they're able to send a streaming broadcast of the search back to the sheriff's office and rescuers' phones so they can see what's happening and plan for the terrain.

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Mike Anderson
Mike Anderson often doubles as his own photographer, shooting and editing most of his stories. He came to KSL in April 2011 after working for several years at various broadcast news outlets.

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