By Don Reisinger
March 14, 2017

Drones aren’t always mentioned in the same breath as saving lives, but a new report from one drone manufacturer says they should be.

Civilian drones have been used to save at least 59 people in 18 different incidents around the world since 2013, DJI, a China-based company that manufacturers popular civilian drones, said in a statement on Tuesday. The company added that 38 of those individuals were saved within in the last 10 months thanks to rescue teams and civilians employing their unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to aid people facing life-threatening emergencies.

Now, DJI says a drone is saving nearly one person’s life a week on average.

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Drones are growing in popularity as more people look to take flight with small UAVs and explore the world around them. But the multitude of ways they’ve been used to save lives in recent years is staggering.

In 2013, for instance, a drone was used in Canada to spot a man who was lost in a “snowy field,” according to DJI. In June 2015, drones were used to drop life vests and ropes to two teens who were at risk of drowning. They’ve also been used to find a missing heart attack victim and look from above for flooding victims. In January, rescuers employed a heat-sensing drone to find kayakers who went missing and were stranded at night.

According to DJI, there might be many more instances like those. The company notes that there are many unreported incidents and some reports on drones saving lives don’t mention how many people were saved.

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“Of particular note is a devastating series of floods in early December, 2015 in India, where various media accounts claim dozens of families, and up to 200 individuals, were spotted and rescued by drones,” DJI said in a statement. “We have excluded these lives from our overall total because no definitive count is available.”

Perhaps one of the more notable DJI findings is who is actually saving lives with drones. The company found that one-third of the recorded incidents included people who were rescued by civilians, non-professionals, or volunteers. In some of those cases, people were saved by bystanders who happened to have drones on the ready when an emergency was occurring.

While DJI cautioned that local authorities and emergency responders should be alerted to emergencies, it predicts that consumer drones could “continue” to deliver “a net benefit to public safety” as the technology becomes more popular.

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