A DJI Phantom 3 Professional was used to save a Navy veteran and his dog in a severe North Carolina flood in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.
This is one of the best examples we have seen of both “drones are good” and the power of social media.
Texas based Craig Williams was worried about his brother, Chris, a Navy veteran with a dog. Chris was stuck in his Hope Mills house because of severe flooding.
The doors of Chris’ home had been bashed in by the force of the water, and water filled the bottom floor of his house. Furthermore, he had been injured while trying to secure the door.
An accomplished swimmer following ten years with the navy special warfare group, he was still no match for raging water inside a completely black house with pieces of furniture being slammed into the walls.
Despite this, at one point during a lull Chris attempted to carry Lana out. The strong current and freezing temperatures were overwhelming, and the water was at least a foot over his head. He realized it was too great a risk and they would have to wait it out. The wait ended up being just over 14 hours.
Craig called over 911 over 60 times but as call demand was so high the lines were overrun. Emergency services confirmed they were working on getting someone to help Chris, but the flooding was making that a real challenge.
Craig eventually managed to speak to his brother via Facebook. Chris was concerned that if the water continued to rise he would be forced to move to the roof. Lana had already tried to jump down the stairway to play in the water and had nearly drowned. Chris was concerned that from the roof he would not be able to prevent her from jumping in and being overcome by the flood waters.
Craig searched Twitter for the hashtag #HopeMills hoping to find out when the water might go down so Chris could be rescued, He saw a drone picture of homes almost completely flooded and jokingly sent the picture to his brother, teasing him that at least that wasn’t his house.
Craig comments “I sent it to him to show, man, at least you’re not in that deep”.
Chris replied that it was! The house on the far right with the single blue shutter was his home.
Craig immediately contacted the drone pilot, Quavas Hart, who had posted the picture under the handle @ImSoFIRST, asking him if he could help his brother.
Craig explained that his brother was stuck in the house with his dog who cannot swim. Could a drone rescue work?
Quavas was still out flying when he got the Tweet and hovered his Phantom while sending Craig his phone number and speaking to him. Quavas couldn’t believe there were still people in those houses since they were so far underwater. People had assumed they were already evacuated.
Quavas stopped what he was doing in order to help. He went to Chris’ neighborhood and flagged down a boat which happened to be carrying a FEMA crew. Quavas flew his drone to the house and the boat followed it. Drone rescue was underway; they immediately saved Chris and Lana.
This drone rescue is awesome. See more examples of why drones are tools of good in the trailer for the new documentary The Drone Invasion –