Chinese police use drone to rescue man lost in Xinjiang desert

Flying machine used to track down man who went missing for over an hour after going sightseeing in Taklimakan Desert without food or water

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 October, 2018, 3:35pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 October, 2018, 3:48pm

Police in western China used a drone to find a man who had wandered into a desert and got lost, local media reported.

The 30-year-old, who was not identified, and his friend had been driving through the Taklimakan Desert in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, when they decided to stop to have a look around, Beijing Youth Daily reported on Wednesday.

As one man wandered off into the wilderness his friend stayed in the vehicle. After about an hour, the man in the car became concerned for his friend’s safety and called the police.

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Police from nearby Qiemo county responded but after an initial search on foot failed to find the man, they called in a drone operator.

“He didn’t have anything to eat. There was no water, only a mobile phone, but there’s no mobile phone signal in some areas in the desert,” a police official was quoted as saying.

He said temperatures in the area sometimes rose to more than 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit).

The report said the man disappeared about 3pm on Sunday and was found about an hour later after the drone searched an area of about an 8km (five mile) radius.

He was spotted just 2km from where he had started. He had apparently seen the drone and tried signalling to it by waving his jacket, the report said.

But as the drone was close to running out of power, the operator flew it back to base, put in a new battery and then returned to the man, who then used it as a guide to finding his way back.

“Even if you are close to where you started, when you are surrounded by desert it’s very difficult to find your way back,” a police officer was quoted as saying.

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Drones are increasingly being used for search and rescue missions across China and around the world – the first reported case was in 2013 in Canada.

The flying machines have also been used in China to deliver emergency supplies, while the government said earlier this year it was working on a new design for use by firefighters.