BOISE, Idaho — Two elk hunters were found safe in the Foothills early Monday morning, thanks to the Ada County Sheriff's Office's newest piece of technology.
The sheriff's office recently acquired new thermal detection drones, which can scan for body heat, engine heat, or anything else that gives off warmth.
The unmanned aircraft came in handy after dispatchers received a call at about 11:30 p.m. from two hunters who said they were lost in the Foothills.
The elk hunters said they had gone up the 8th Street Extension earlier in the day, but had ended up in a ravine in the dark. The pair said they were unable to find their way out of the thick brush.
The sheriff's office says it is not uncommon for recreationists to get turned around and lose their way in the Foothills. Deputies are familiar with the area, and can usually figure out where lost hikers or hunters are, but then must travel over the same difficult terrain to get to them, or try to use sometimes-unreliable cell signal to guide people out over the phone.
The new drones, which also have audio speakers and spotlights, makes it easier to track people down and get them home safely.
Deputies were able to figure out the hunters' general location after spotting their flashing headlamps. The drone pilot then flew over the ravine, and used the thermal function on the drone to figure out exactly where the pair were. The drone then switched on its spotlight, illuminating a safe route up and out of the ravine.
The Ada County Sheriff's Office said deputies had just received the new Mavic 2 Enterprise drones on Friday afternoon.
"Monday morning was the first time our drone pilots got a chance to use them in an official capacity – and they totally delivered," the sheriff's office wrote in a post.