Rescued – Alzheimer’s Person Drone Flight Debrief

Here is another flight debrief to assist others with lessons learned from this actual flight.

Wake Forest Fire Department UAS Flight Debrief

Flight Time: 75 Minutes

Mission Goals:

Assist in locating missing 79-year-old man with Alzheimer’s.


This is his second episode of the subject walking away from home. He was last seen at his residence at 10:30 PM on April 22, 2018. The first time he was found near the home of his daughter, nearby.

Rescued – Alzheimer’s Person Drone Flight DebriefMoore County Public Safety called me directly at 0215 and requested the Wake Forest Fire Department drone Firebird 1 to assist in the search for missing man. At around the same time, Moore County Emergency Management called Wake Dispatch and made a formal request. A time and an incident number was assigned.

I spoke to both Chief Early and Battalion Chief Barrett before departing to the location in Moore County. The address was approximately 90 miles away. I arrived at 0353.

Moore County also called Fayetteville Police Department for their drone to come and assist in the search.

The search area was divided up into two primary areas. WFFD took search area #1 and Fayetteville PD took search area #2.

Upon arrival, I spoke to FPD pilot and we coordinated airspace operational heights. A second FPD pilot arrived later.

What Went Well:

The following items were conducted without incident:

  1. The call and dispatch process operated smoothly.
  2. Upon arrival, I made contact with command post and spoke to Incident Commander for assignment. The IC advised the missing man had a daughter who lived in a house in search area 1.
  3. I was able to establish our Landing Zone (LZ) at the last known location of the missing man at his residence.
  4. Family members were eager to assist me with watching the monitor to call out potential targets, help first responders to input GPS coordinates to locate identified targets and to capture and relay GPS coordinates to first responders in the woods.
  5. Teamwork with FPD cut the search time down.
  6. The missing man was located by FPD pilot, not far across the search box line in search area 2.

    Rescued – Alzheimer’s Person Drone Flight Debrief

  7. The family was very kind, helpful, appreciative, and gracious.
  8. A structured search pattern was flown. With the assistance of foot searchers and assistance from family members, we were able to cover a lot of territory in a short amount of time.

    Rescued – Alzheimer’s Person Drone Flight Debrief

  9. When a target was spotted, the GPS coordinates were relayed to searchers in the woods and Firebird 1 moved on while searchers went to the target location.
  10. There was good radio communication on Viper radios.
  11. I can’t stress how exceptional the staff from Moore County and family members were with their assistance in this search.
  12. The dense woods had a number of targets in them that warranted investigation.
  13. Targets spotted and identified ranged from cats, dogs, possibly a coyote, turkey, goats, horses, and a number of deer.

Rescued – Alzheimer’s Person Drone Flight Debrief

Rescued – Alzheimer’s Person Drone Flight Debrief

What Could Have Gone Better:

  1. As batteries were swapped I received a message that a firmware update was required for each pair of batteries. This had not presented previously. The update took approximately two minutes per pair.
  2. More time could have been spent on adjusting contrast to see if it would improve images.
  3. On the initial flight, once Firebird 1 was airborne and engaged in the search I was unable to change the color palette or get to the thermal camera menu. I decided to continue the search as it was and examine the aircraft and camera further when the batteries needed to be changed. On the first battery swap, when the aircraft was powered down to make the swap, on power up the thermal camera menu was able to be accessed and changed.

Flight Video

Recommendations From Flight:

We currently have the lower resolution thermal camera and if anything could have been changed from the flight it would be to acquire the higher resolution thermal camera which has twice the resolution.

That being said, there will always be a newer and better camera available so chasing the latest technology solution is not a viable option even though it could significantly improve thermal operations.

News Reports

Sandhills Sentinel – Drone Locates Missing Elderly Eastwood Man

A coordinated effort by local law enforcement agencies who deployed a drone to find a missing 79 year old gentleman who suffers from Alzheimer’s was successful, and the man was taken to FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital by an ambulance.

A command post was established last night around 10:30 pm, and a ground search was coordinated that included the Moore County Sheriff’s Department, First Responders from The Eastwood Fire Department, and The Southern Pines Police Department’s K-9 team, according to a news release from The Moore County Sheriff’s Office.

A North Carolina State Highway helicopter, a drone team from The Wake Forrest Fire Department, and The Fayetteville Police Department also aided in the search for the man.

Drones located the missing man in a wooded area close to his home this morning at 5:00 am. The news release did not state if the man had injures or was taken to the hospital for observation.

“This operation not only included the Moore County Sheriff’s Office but also units with Eastwood Fire & Rescue, Moore County EMS, NC State Highway Patrol, Southern Pines Police Department, Moore County Public Safety, Fayetteville Police Department and Wake Forrest Fire Department. All have my sincere appreciation for their assistance,” said Sheriff Neil Godfrey. “This happy ending is a great example of teamwork that employed technology and a collective group of dedicated selfless servants.” – Source

Aberdeen Times – Search Underway Overnight For Missing Eastwood Man

Emergency units spent Sunday night and early Monday searching for a missing 79-year-old Eastwood area man.

Responders were dispatched just before 10:30 pm to a residence on Windfall Drive off of Esther Road for a reported missing person.

The man went missing from a home located on a dirt road surrounded by woods. A ground search was immediately started by sheriff’s deputies and firefighters. In addition, a K-9 from Southern Pines Police Department responded and assisted in the initial search for the missing man.

Just after midnight a helicopter with the NC State Highway based in Salisbury was brought in to assist in the search for the missing man using infrared cameras.

The man was last seen at his residence around 10:00 pm wearing blue pajama pants, a black t-shirt, white tennis shoes and glasses. He reportedly has dementia/Alzheimer’s and may have had an altered mental status according to authorities.

He was located shortly after 5:00 am Monday morning using a drone aircraft after all night search efforts by authorities. The man was transported to FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital by ambulance according to emergency officials.

Sheriff Neil Godfrey stated Monday morning “This happy ending is a great example of teamwork that employed technology and a collective group of dedicated selfless servants.”

Responding Sunday night were units with Eastwood Fire & Rescue, Moore County EMS, NC State Highway Patrol, Southern Pines Police Department, Moore County Sheriff’s Department, and Moore County Public Safety. Drone Teams from the Wake Forrest Fire Department and the Fayetteville Police Department also assisted on the search. – Source


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