Drones have saved 1,000 lives thanks to thermal cameras (and a life-bouy bomb!)

Mavic 3T Thermal Side by Side image of buildings
(Image credit: Future)

One of the more enjoyable product tests I got to undertake recently was the DJI Mavic 3 Enterprise Thermal, because I used it to play a sophisticated game of hide-and-seek. I was only simulating a missing person, though; in real life, the number of happily resolved dangerous situations (recorded diligently by the DJI team) has now clocked up at 1,002 and counting.

• The best thermal drones are saving lives

A recent example, and one showing the benefits of thermal drones, was the rescue of two hikers in Duchess County, New York State, who had lost their way at night and were losing cellphone battery. The local sheriff's office was able to use its UAS Unit to find them thanks to the thermal camera.

Clip from ABC Eyewitness News.

Explaining why the company started keeping track of drone rescue statistics in 2017, Christina Zhang, DJI Senior Director of Corporate Strategy said: "Drones are an essential life-saving tool for search and rescue operators around the world, and it is encouraging to see how civilians with drones often volunteer to help in critical emergencies. 

"We have made it our mission to share with the world how important drone technology is for the men and women who put their lives on the line for us all to save people from serious harm."

It's not all night vision and police work, either. Back in 2022 a teenager was saved from the coast of Valencia, Spain, as he struggled against a powerful tide. The specially-adapted rescue drone was able to drop a life vest into the sea near the boy, so he could hold it even before the physical lifeguard arrived. 

"When we arrived what we saw was a kid that was in very bad shape, with almost no energy to keep floating, so I sent over the life vest," said Miguel Angel Pedrero, the drone pilot, to Reuters (as reported in euronews.next).

To get an overall view of the global success of drone rescues – or at least those the DJI team has discovered – you can visit the DJI Enterprise Drone Rescues Around The World map.

If you feel that drones deserve good press, and know of something, you can use the form on this page to share the information with DJI's team, which will check up on it. There are criteria, too: the drone must have played an active part in the rescue (not just been there), but for these stats DJI doesn't care which firm made the UAV.

If you're interested in thermal drones do check our list, though it's always good to check out the best camera drones too, and of course the best thermal binoculars for the ground team.

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Adam Juniper
Managing Editor

With over 20 years of expertise as a tech journalist, Adam brings a wealth of knowledge across a vast number of product categories, including timelapse cameras, home security cameras, NVR cameras, photography books, webcams, 3D printers and 3D scanners, borescopes, radar detectors… and, above all, drones. 

Adam is our resident expert on all aspects of camera drones and drone photography, from buying guides on the best choices for aerial photographers of all ability levels to the latest rules and regulations on piloting drones. 

He is the author of a number of books including The Complete Guide to Drones, The Smart Smart Home Handbook, 101 Tips for DSLR Video and The Drone Pilot's Handbook