Police Use UAV to Find Missing Calif. Teen

Photo courtesy of Fremont PD

The Fremont, Calif., Police Department helped locate a missing teenager from the California School for the Deaf using an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) with a thermal imaging camera. Fremont PD helped the California Highway Patrol during the search, and there was immediate concern for the child’s mental well-being, according to a release from the Fremont PD.

A Fremont Police drone operator deployed a UAV while other officers on foot began searching the railroad tracks near where the teen was believed to be. The UAV was equipped with FLIR, a thermal imaging camera system. The UAV located a heat spot at the location. 

As information was being shared to the officers on foot, the missing juvenile’s friends, also on foot, approached their friend who was hiding in bushes. The UAV operator was able to visually see this transpiring and continued to relay the information over the radio. The friends were aware of the UAV in the air and used their cell phone flashlights to signal the operator. A spotlight on the UAV helped guide officers to their location and was used to provide light while officers communicated to the teens. The missing teen was taken to paramedics who were staging nearby. 

The department’s UAV Program Administrator Lt. Matt Snelson stated, “we have been training and expanding our program to be prepared for this exact scenario. This technology allowed us to expedite a search, which normally could have taken several hours and a lot of resources. To be able to locate a young man who needed help and get him to the resources he needed, is a big success for our UAV team and our community.”

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