MAURY COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — When a kayaker went missing on the Duck River in Maury County this past weekend, rescue crews from both Maury County Fire Department and Columbia City Fire responded.
Where the man went missing, near Blue Springs boat ramp, was dark, stormy, and dangerous.
Instead of risking rescue crews by putting them on the dark water and sending them along the shoreline with unsure footing, the city’s latest technology was deployed.
Crews launched the city’s relatively new drone.
The unit costs around $25,000 and has already helped during the flood and multiple fire scenes.
But on Saturday night, it was used to expedite search efforts while keeping search teams safe.
Chief Ty Cobb told News 2, it’s the best piece of equipment he’s seen come around in his 20 years on the force.
Chief Cobb says “This drone allows us to fly in the rain, in the wind, in all kinds of conditions.”
The 32-year-old man went missing Saturday night. He was last seen kayaking on the Duck River and his fiance told 911 he texted her around 8:30 p.m. Then he went silent. She called 911 around 11 p.m. and rescue teams arrived at the remote location at close to 11:30 p.m.
Here is some of her anxious call to 911:
Caller: “And he had no flashlight out here. He ain’t got not light. I don’t know where he at. It’s raining and storming.”
The chief told News 2, with the dark and stormy conditions, putting up the drone was the logical move.
“If we were able to locate that kayaker, that drone could lock on that, and emergency responders could use GPS and go directly to him or her.”
The drone has a seven-mile radius and can fly for an extended period of time.
The drone has two cameras that record simultaneously. One camera is infrared camera allows operators to see heat signatures that show up as light objects on the camera. The other is regular.
After approximately two hours, the drone was brought back and the search canceled.
It was about this time that officials say, the lost kayaker was found walking down the road, unharmed.
The chief says, “Not only did we keep emergency responders from being in tough areas where it is dark and treacherous, we were able to use the drone and keep everyone safe.”
This is the department’s second drone. The operator must be licensed by the FAA to pilot the drone.