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Mass. first responders use drone, thermal camera to rescue lost kayaker

Using an app that shares GPS coordinates, Deerfield firefighters were directed to the injured man’s location


Image/Greenfield (Mass.) Fire Department

Luis Fieldman

DEERFIELD, Mass. — A thermal camera mounted on a drone helped rescuers find a lost kayaker adrift on the Deerfield River on Tuesday night.

Police received a 911 call from a man who said he had lost voice contact with a fellow kayaker on the river, and that he had floated downstream, unable to get out. The lost kayaker was a man in his 30s, according to Deerfield Fire Chief Darren Melnik.

Melnik quickly requested a drone unit from the nearby Greenfield Fire Department to help locate the lost kayaker, according to a Facebook post by the Greenfield Fire Department.

“Within two minutes of launching our drone with a thermal camera, we were able to locate what appeared to be an empty kayak,” the Greenfield Fire Department wrote. Members of the Deerfield Fire Department found the empty kayak and began their search for the lost kayaker along the shore.

It only took another few minutes for the thermal camera on the drone to find the person who had made their way to shore further up the river. Using an app called what3words, which shares GPS coordinates, Deerfield fire rescuers were directed to the kayaker’s location ashore.

“They were able to make voice contact within minutes with the lost kayaker, and determined that he was injured,” the post read.

With help from the South County EMS, firefighters were able to use a small inflatable boat to rescue the kayaker.

“Due to shallow water, the boat was manually pushed up and down the river by the firefighters to rescue the kayaker,” the post read. The kayaker was then transported to the hospital with minor injuries.


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