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A Surf Life Saving NSW drone has been used to successfully locate a missing man in bushland at Port Macquarie, demonstrating the effectiveness of the technology for search and rescue applications in a variety of settings.

The man had been missing for two days and Police had serious concerns for his safety when the search commenced on Thursday 28 April. The search centred around Kooloonbung Creek nature reserve and involved the SES and a Surf Life Saving NSW drone flown by the Port Macquarie Lifeguard Supervisor James Turnham.

Branch Duty Officer Kim Rayner was also on scene and James Turnham commenced an aerial search at 1pm over both water and bushland at the request of the Police.

At about 2.15pm, towards the end of the third drone flight and with the low battery signal sounding, James noticed a small blue object in the trees.

He launched the drone again and was able to direct rescuers to the location where the missing man was found nearby.

"I had to fly as low as I could below the trees and above the water - and then I spotted his shirt," Mr Turnham said.

A Surf Life Saving spinal board was used to move the patient from the swampy area to safety with the help of SES crews. Paramedics were able to assess the patient for minor injuries and transported him to hospital.

Detective Chief Inspector Darren Jameson, who is also a Surf Life Saving NSW Duty Officer, praised the drone pilot for quickly and safely locating the missing man.

“It’s becoming evident that as the skill levels of the SLS drone pilots increases, their capabilities in assisting in all rescue or emergency operations also increases.

“The skill and capability of the pilot, James Turnham, was a significant contributor in finding this man as quickly as we did, and definitely saved his life,” said Darren Jameson.

James Turnham said the drone technology has been used in a number of similar callouts over the last few years, outside of standard Surf Life Saving operations on beaches.

“This is a great example of a successful joint rescue effort, with the Australian Lifeguard Service and Surf Life Saving drones and volunteer duty officers coming together to protect the public,” said James Turnham.

UAV Search for Man Photo
Drone footage shows how dense the bushland in the search area was. 



Monday 3 May 2021