Thermal technology helping Provo police get to stranded hikers quicker

Dec 13, 2023, 6:43 PM | Updated: Dec 14, 2023, 7:51 am

PROVO — The Provo Police Department said thermal technology helped them save a young man who was lost while hiking Sunday night.

With night approaching and temperatures dropping, police said a drone armed with thermal technology located the lost hiker within minutes.

“He called his parents, who then called us,” said Sgt. Kreston Bascom with Provo police. Bascom said pilots take the location from the 911 call and program it into the drone.

“We’ll use a tool like a drone to evaluate the situation,” he said. “Map out an exact location to the person and a route to them.”

The technology can find humans quickly with a nearly crystal-clear shot.

“We’ve saved so much time,” Bascom said. “Because in the past, what we’ve had to do is send our mountain rescue team in there. They assess the situation, radio back.”

Thermal technology changing the game

The drone pilot in Sunday’s rescue found the young man in 10 minutes.

“It’s a game-changer,” said Provo police Capt. Brian Wolken. He said the darker the color, the hotter the item.

“We had a couple of climbers that we had to rescue,” he said. “It was pitch black, but we were able to find them with our thermal imaging.”

The Provo Police Department says thermal technology helped them save a young man who was lost while hiking Sunday night. (KSL TV)

Bascom said some of the drones have speakers attached to them, allowing the pilots to communicate with stranded hikers from the ground. These officers say when the drone is the first responder, it can cut down on response times.

“The sooner we can locate them and offer aid to them,” Bascom said, “The safer it is for them and the responders.”

The drones are also equipped to drop off items like water, a phone or keys, police said. Police also stressed the drones are for safety and not spying.

In Sunday’s rescue, all individuals involved got off the mountain without any injuries.

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Thermal technology helping Provo police get to stranded hikers quicker