Technology Finds Missing People in Minutes

Technology has varying degrees of usefulness, but I’m a sucker for stories like the following:

Colorado Highland Helicopters is testing technology that allows helicopter search and rescue teams to detect missing people in Colorado’s backcountry within minutes. A recent test in La Plata Canyon resulted in finding two missing people within two minutes and 14 seconds. The technology works even if the missing persons are in an area without cellphone service.

Searchers attach a device that works like a miniature cellphone tower to the exterior of a helicopter. It allows searchers to pinpoint the locations of any cell phone within a 3-mile radius on a map on a tablet. Focusing on one location takes only a minute—allowing for the search of multiple phones in the area.

The Lifeseeker technology, developed by Spain-based CENTUM Research & Technology, is in the process of being approved by the Federal Communications Commission.

The technology seems to be a game-changer. Installing the technology unit only takes three minutes, and it can detect a cell phone up to nearly 20 miles away in favorable conditions. The tool can also send text messages to the missing person advising them to stay where they are if hurt or move to a clearing for a helicopter to pick them up. It also allows SAR to send out a message to a group of people within a certain range, like an Amber Alert, to warn them of a wildfire or flood.

The Lifeseeker technology could make a huge difference for searchers looking for someone in an area outside of cellphone range, but only if the person’s phone has power. They advise anyone who is lost to conserve battery power by putting the phone in airplane mode or turning it off until they hear a helicopter.

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