(AP) – After a tornado ravaged a corner of Alabama this week, rescue crews didn’t have to stumble through every destroyed building in their search for victims. Instead, they used heat-seeking drones to let them know whether there was anyone beneath the ruins.
In so doing, they joined the increasing ranks of public safety agencies across the U.S. and around the world that have employed unmanned thermal-imaging aircraft during critical situations, including manhunts, wildfires and other natural disasters.
In Alabama, Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones says it is not clear if drones spotted any bodies or anyone injured or trapped in the debris. But at the least, the technology helped reassure searchers that they hadn’t overlooked anyone in the aftermath of the twister that killed 23 people.
Thermal-imaging drones are cheaper than manned aircraft such as helicopters, which can’t get into tight spaces and require more training.