Were it not for a volunteer and his drone, four people may have been swept away for good in floodwaters of Johnson County, Texas this past weekend. Drone operator Garrett Bryl twice used his DJI Inspire quadcopter for rescue work, working alongside the Joshua County fire department. It’s a great example of the good that drones in the right hands can do.
The floods came suddenly, as storms overnight created ideal conditions for flash flooding in North Texas. Bryl’s drone, which he has dubbed “Valkyrie” is modified so it can carry a searchlight. With his drone in hand (or rather in the air), Bryl spotted a pickup truck swept off the road by the reflection of his searchlight off the truck’s tail light. This is the most basic function of drone rescue: a camera overhead, seeing from above what is difficult to spot at ground level. Once spotted, the fire department then sent over a rescue hovercraft to save the people inside the truck.
Bryl’s second drone-assisted rescue was a little more involved. Valkyrie carried a rope over to a family trapped in their mobile home, which despite already being on stilts, was surrounded by fast-flowing water. This made the house inaccessible by boat or hovercraft, but the drone could fly over. With the rope attached to the house, rescue workers sent the family life preservers, and then used a helicopter to lift them out of danger. While the drone didn’t assist in the helicopter lift, by getting life preservers to the family it made sure that if the lift went wrong, the family members could still survive in the water.
There’s a local news broadcast segment on the rescue, and the drone-shot footage can be viewed below: