An aerial drone equipped with a heat-vision camera helped Eau Claire County sheriff’s deputies quickly locate a 68-year-old man who had been reported missing Tuesday morning.
According to a state Department of Justice news release sent on Friday, it was the first known use of an unmanned aerial vehicle in Wisconsin to successfully find a person who had been reported missing through the state’s Silver Alert system.
“Previously, if a person had gone missing in a field or large rural area, many hours and personnel resources would have been used to search the areas,” Attorney General Brad Schimel said in the news release.
He credited the Eau Claire County sheriff’s office and the drone pilot in his department’s Division of Criminal Investigation for working together and using their technology to find the lost man.
Gary Grage was last seen at 11:30 p.m. Monday at his home on Highway KK in the town of Clear Creek located in the southern part of the county.
“Deputies searched for the subject during the evening but were unable to locate the missing person due to darkness and fog,” county Undersheriff Joel Brettingen said in the news release.
After daylight, the sheriff’s office used its own drone to help in the search, but also asked for help from the DOJ’s drone because of its thermal imaging technology. The latter drone was able to spot Grage walking in a field by seeing his body heat.
A Silver Alert went out to media outlets at about 8:15 a.m. Tuesday, seeking help to find Grage. However, it was canceled about a half hour later when he was safely found.
While this is believed to be the state’s first use of a drone in a Silver Alert, other forms of technology have been used to help locate people.
Wisconsin Department of Transportation electronic signs along highways have twice helped in the location of a missing senior citizen.
Wisconsin Lottery terminals at stores also have spread Silver Alert information and resulted in numerous success stories, according to the news release.
The Silver Alert system, which is used to find missing older adults who have Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other cognitive impairments, has been used 266 times since it started in August 2014, according to the DOJ.