Mountain Rescue Aspen’s newest team member: A drone

Mountain Rescue Aspen’s newest team member: A drone

As absurd as people can be with drones–cue OrvilleCopter’s Dead Cat Drone–the technology has proven itself useful for more than just entertainment purposes. Mountain Rescue Aspen (MRA) recently added a Matrice 210 drone, outfitted with an infrared camera as well as a 30x zoom camera, to its team roster for search and rescue.

In less than a month, the MRA rookie has proved itself invaluable, playing an integral role in saving a lost hiker near Chapman Campground, situated above the Ruedi Reservoir adjacent from the Fryingpan River in White River National Forest, on June 27.

According to an article by The Aspen Times, when rescuers received the call at 6:20 p.m. that Wednesday, the team headed to Fryingpan Valley, about 30 miles east of Basalt, and launched the search at 7:50 p.m. It was dark, the area was thickly wooded and marshy. Odds were not in favor for MRA. That is, had they not had the drone.

The Matrice 210 was launched at 8:30 p.m. by chief pilot, Bill Murphy. Murphy methodically searched the area for some time when he spotted someone in the woods via the infrared detection mechanism. The closest ground crew was only half a mile away. Able to scope out the terrain and direct the ground crew, MRA rescued the hiker and navigated the rescue group safely back to the road.

The list of reasons the drone will remain on the MRA team is abundant. It can be deployed to pinpoint the location of a cliffed-out or lost hiker, skier or snowboarder, it can determine whether ground or air rescue crews are needed, give GPS coordinates, pick out a landing zone for a helicopter–or fly it at nighttime when helicopters are restricted from flying–deliver supplies as well as keep rescuers safe over the course of a mission.

It didn’t take long for the $30,000 drone, paid for entirely with contributions from the community, to prove its worth for MRA and with as many capabilities as it has, it certainly won’t be taken off the team’s roster any time soon.

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