STAFFORD, Va. - Authorities say a drone was used to help them find a missing high school student in Stafford County. The unmanned aircraft spotted the teenager less than five hours after he was reported missing.
The Stafford County Sheriff's Office says this is the first time a drone was used to successfully locate a missing person. The department has four drones and says it is a sign of the times on how technology is impacting policing.
"It became apparent that the people that were at Mountain View High School would benefit from having an aerial perspective, especially as nightfall occurred, because the unmanned aircraft system has sensor technology that enables it to see in darkness," Stafford County Sheriff's Office Capt. Ben Worcester. "The call first came in around 5 p.m. and the drone team was activated around 8 p.m. The subject was located by 9:30 p.m."
All of this went down Monday night when an 18-year-old Mountain View High School student never made it home after school was dismissed.
Police were called and Capt. Worcester says a drone was launched. The operator picked up a thermal image that ultimately proved to be the missing teenager in the far southwest portion of the campus near the track.
"I feel as though we would have found the subject, but perhaps it would have taken a lot longer," said Worcester. "Maybe not even until daylight broke."
We are told there is no drone video of the discovery of the student. Even if there were, Worcester says it would show grey and red dots. These dots directed drone team members and deputies to the area where the missing student was found unharmed.
These drones cost about $2,000 each. Once the software is added, including the thermal recognition software, these drones are worth about $15,000 to $20,000 apiece.