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Search And Rescue Teams Use Drone To Find Missing Hikers

By Karen Morfitt

DOUGLAS COUNTY (CBS4) - The search for missing hikers in the Pike National Forest was a success, thanks in part to a newly-approved drone.

"I think it's awesome, it's fantastic. It is in fact, I think, where search and rescue, especially in the wilderness, is headed," Roman Bukary of the Douglas County Search and Rescue Team said.

(credit: Douglas County Sheriff's Office)

On Thursday, Bukary and the rest of the rescue team were called on to find two men who lost their way after leaving the Devil's Head Trail.

More than two dozen people responded, including foot searchers, ATVs, a K-9 team, and the unmanned aerial vehicle team.

They launched the drone and were able to quickly cover miles of terrain before boots would ever touch the ground.

dougco drone rescue
(credit: Douglas County Search and Rescue)

"Before we're out there we can search massive areas of terrain. Before we're out there we can see at high points of visibility is there, in fact, someone there," Bukary said.

While the drone is an invaluable search tool, Bukary says it also gives those responding on foot valuable information they need to complete a successful rescue.

"Everybody knew exactly where we were going what we were seeing who we had to deal with and how many we had to deal with and that made my life much easier," he said.

In this case, finding the missing hikers in a forest spanning thousands of acres took just two hours.

pike natl forest
Drone4 flies over the Pike National Forest (credit: CBS)

Bukary says as successful as the search was, it is really just a glimpse into what the technology can do.

"Obviously it can be equipped with cameras, it can be equipped with FLIR, or forward looking infrared, so it can find warm body figures in the cold and dark. It is a tremendous tool and I'm glad it's on our team," Bukary said.

A spokesperson for the Douglas County Search and Rescue team says the hikers almost immediately asked how much the whole ordeal was going to cost them.

It's an important reminder to anyone who ever finds themselves needing help that it is the policy of all professional search and rescue teams in Colorado not to charge for services.

Douglas County Search and Rescue is an all-volunteer nonprofit team that operates under the authority of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office.  They accept and rely on donations to offset the cost of these missions.

Karen Morfitt joined the CBS4 team as a reporter in 2013. She covers a variety of stories in and around the Denver metro area. Connect with her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @karenmorfitt or email her tips.

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