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China-made drone helps locate missing Calif. teen

By CHANG JUN in San Francisco | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-02-25 23:28
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File Photo: A drone size comparison between the new DJI Mavic 2 Pro (Left) and DJI Mavic Pro Platinum (Right) at the Chinese multinational technology company DJI flagship store in Hong Kong, August 24, 2018. [Photo/IC]

DJI, a manufacturer of consumer and commercial drones, made headlines in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond last week by helping to locate a missing teen.

The police department in Fremont, California, on Tuesday, issued a public notice detailing how a drone had helped officers locate a missing teen.

A police dispatcher received a call around 8:30 pm on Feb 5 from the California Highway Patrol, which requested assistance in locating a missing student from the California School for the Deaf.

Several officers responded on foot to the scene, conjunction of railroad track and road. Police also deployed a drone to expedite the search. The drone, later identified as a DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual model, is equipped with a thermal imaging camera system that enables searching in the dark.

Shortly after the drone took off, the pilot reported a heat spot; it was the missing teenager, who was hiding in bushes. The pilot then guided officers through the communication system to approach the youth, who was cold and hungry. He was then rushed to paramedics nearby.

Lieutenant Matt Snelson, in charge of the department’s unmanned aerial-vehicle program, said the search for and rescue of “a young man who needed help, and to get him to the resources he needed” was a big success for “our UAV team and our community”.

The technology allowed officers to expedite the search, which normally could have taken several hours and more resources, he said, adding, “We have been training and expanding our program to be prepared for this exact scenario.”

Fremont, home to Tesla and several high-tech unicorn startups, is an early adopter of drones. The city administrator approved the purchase of the drones, along with the requisite training, about three years ago.

“We feel so grateful that our technology has been used to help save a young man’s life,” Adam Lisberg, corporate communication director of DJI North America, told China Daily.

According to available statistics, the Fremont teen was the 211th on a global public safety list of drone-assist rescues, said Lisberg.

According to research conducted by the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, by last May there were more than 910 state and local police, sheriff, fire, and emergency services agencies that have acquired drones.

The center also recorded the drone models and manufacturers for 627 of the 910 agencies in its database.

The majority (523) reported having purchased at least one drone from DJI, while 260, or 41 percent, have bought one or more DJI Phantom models. Two hundred and 11 agencies, or 33 percent, have bought one or more DJI Inspire models.

And 103 agencies, or 16 percent, have purchased either a DJI Matrice or DJI Mavic.

Besides civic use, DJI is the dominant brand for all-purpose drone aircraft purchases worldwide, Lisberg said.

According to the 2018 Drone Market Sector Report, which studied worldwide drone sales, service providers, business and public agency users, and software services, DJI accounted for 74 percent of global market share across all price points.

Shao Yang, a newly elected Fremont City Council member, shared the story of the DJI drone-assisted police search on social media.

“A successful integration of high-tech and protection of lives,” he concluded.

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