FEB 27, 2022

Drones in search of missing persons

Problem definition:

Accidents, crises and emergency situations, especially in urban areas, have recently led to ever greater emergencies for life and limb. This is accompanied by an increase in security problems. In such emergency situations, it is the duty of public services such as emergency organisations to ensure the safety and protection of the population. Reports from Korea indicate that although there were no major problems when emergency workers arrived at the disaster site, it took a long time for them to enter and leave the emergency site. However, time is a critical factor, especially for the fire brigade and police, who are responsible for ensuring public safety and who have to respond quickly to disasters and accidents.

The longer it takes emergency services to reach the scene, the higher the potential risks. In emergency situations, not only civilian lives and their natural environment are endangered but also the emergency service teams are exposed to a high risk when operating in the field.

According to the Korean Fire Service, 51 firefighters have died in disaster operations over a period of 10 years since 2008. Especially when monitoring or searching inaccessible spaces or terrains during a disaster, it can be life-threatening for emergency workers. For this reason, technical aids such as electronic sensors placed in inaccessible places or aerial photographs from aircraft or satellites are used by security forces to check these places.

However, these technical aids have the disadvantage that if the sensors fail, the location cannot be monitored and the use of planes and helicopters requires large sums of money.

Solution approach:

The introduction and use of drones offer a solution to the aforementioned humanitarian and technical problems. Compared to other technical tools such as helicopters or aeroplanes, drones are used due to their easy accessibility and deployment options as well as their comparatively lower costs. This is especially true for the use of drones in urban and very densely populated areas, where drones can be deployed more flexibly and quickly. This time difference could decide over missing people's lives.  In addition, response organisations such as police or firefighters can use drones to search for missing people in dangerous terrain or post-disaster areas without putting themselves in danger.

One successful example in the use of drones in the field of security is the operational method of the Korean police. They have used drones with infrared thermal imaging cameras and high-resolution cameras to search for a missing student on mountainous terrain. The drones provided a real-time video feed from the inaccessible mountain site and directly assisted the police in conducting the search for the student. Using the real-time screen and the temperatures of the terrain and objects on the ground displayed on it, the highest and lowest temperature averages were determined, indicating human life.

This example shows that the use of drones can be of great importance for security services. They allow responders to quickly navigate to remote locations and the use of real-time aerial video feeds efficiently accelerates the search for missing persons.


Hwang, K., Yu, J., & Choi, H. (2018). A Study on the Management of Public Services by Using Drones : Based on the Search for Missing persons. International Journal Of Engineering Research And Technology, (11), 1641-1649. ISSN 0974-3154.

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