Skip to main content

DJI study: Drones are already saving over one life a week

DJI Phantom 4 Pro+
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Organizations around the world have conducted studies on the potential dangers of flying unpiloted aircraft — but what about their life-saving capabilities? On March 14, DJI released a study based on news reports indicating that drones have saved at least 59 lives. With 38 of those rescues occurring between May 2016 and February 2017, that number averages almost one life per week. And drone use for life-saving purposes is only increasing.

Search and rescue teams are quickly adopting imaging drones to act as eyes in the sky — and the Red Cross will even soon have it’s own drone-launching Land Rover. Meanwhile, DJI’s report has an unexpected statistic. One third of those rescues were not from rescue teams, but from volunteers operating their own consumer drones, suggesting that even hobbyist drones are making a positive impact.

Related Videos

DJI’s study is based on global news reports going all the way back to 2013, but it shows that all but 21 of those rescues occurred in 2016 and 2017. The numbers are based only on published reports, and DJI suggests the actual number is much higher. The research group did not include incidents where drones helped narrow the search grid for the rescue teams, for example. And in one case in India late in 2015, up to 200 people were rescued from severe flooding as a result of drone use; but since DJI couldn’t find a definitive number, those estimates were also excluded.

DJI says 31 of the 59 were rescued from a flood and while in most instances the drone camera was used to find survivors, some of the aircraft also tossed down life jackets and rescue ropes. Another 19 people were spotted on land, including one case where a thermal camera identified a missing man in a snowstorm. Nine were rescued from water environments not caused by flooding.

“The clear conclusion is that drones are regularly saving lives around the world. This is occurring even though professional rescue crews are just beginning to adopt UAS technology, and in many cases are relying on bystanders or volunteers to provide lifesaving assistance,” the report from DJI’s Policy & Legal Affairs Department concludes. “DJI is at the forefront in efforts to develop best practices and optimal standards for firefighters, rescue services, and other first responders to integrate drones into their command protocols. As these efforts continue, we expect the number of lives saved by drones to continue to grow.”

The report comes just after a study from the same company suggesting that drone weight limits requiring registration (and a pilot’s license for commercial use) above 2.5 kilograms could be four times higher and still meet the same safety standards.

Editors' Recommendations

Flying a drone other than DJI made me instantly regret the decision
Holy Stone HS720E drone flying in air.

I’ve been flying DJI drones exclusively for the last few years, and for good reason. In the world of drones, DJI’s technology and lineup of consumer drones have been outstanding -- to the point that I haven’t had the desire to pilot drones aside from those from DJI. The only other non-DJI I’ve flown and tested out was the Parrot Bebop 2, and while it did introduce me to the world of drones, nothing has been able to steer me away from DJI of late.

People still have this fear about buying drones, especially those that cost thousands of dollars, which is why entry-level models like the DJI Mini 2 are attractive at under $500. Very recently, though, I tried out another similarly priced drone, the Holy Stone HS720E, just to give myself some practice and insights into what the competition offers. After trying it out for a couple of weeks, however, it made me realize the huge disparity between DJI’s drones and competitors like Holy Stone.
The draw of low cost
As I’ve clearly detailed, pricing is a strong deterrent for anyone who’s just getting started. No one wants to invest thousands of dollars into a drone, only to fly it a handful of times and have some kind of accident that turns it into a paperweight. I know I wouldn’t be comfortable buying a drone in the $1,000 range as my first drone, which is why sub $500 models like the Holy Stone HS720E are attractive -- a peek at its specs sheet is indication enough of that!

Read more
Autel’s EVO Lite and Nano drones are primed to compete with DJI’s best
Autel Evo Nano.

Autel has launched its new EVO Nano and EVO Light drones, which are aimed at competing with DJI’s line of compact, lightweight drones. Autel is perhaps the most direct rival DJI has in the consumer drone space, and that rivalry just got a bit more intense.

First up is the EVO Nano, with its notable 249-gram weight, which falls below the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) 250-gram threshold. Drones above that weight must be registered with the FAA in the U.S. This is the same lightweight category currently dominated by the DJI Mavic Mini 2, against which the EVO Nano possesses a few notable advantages. For one, it features three-way obstacle avoidance, which is a unique innovation in a drone weighing less than 250 grams.

Read more
Is DJI about to launch its most affordable drone yet?
Packaging apparently showing DJI's incoming Mini SE drone.

DJI looks set to announce its most affordable drone to date.

The Mini SE quadcopter has already been spotted in a Walmart store by at least one eagle-eyed shopper, along with a $299 price tag.

Read more