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Drones becoming equipped with infrared imaging to help officials save lives

DENVER -- Drones have exploded in popularity over the past few years but now they are being equipped with technology that can save lives.

That's the biggest focus Xponential, the largest drone convention in the country at the Colorado Convention Center currently.

In the past year alone, drones have helped save 65 lives across five continents. From dropping buoys to struggling swimmers in Australia to spotting unconscious victims on freezing cold nights in the mountains - UAV's have greatly improved public safety.

One of the new tools being shown off at this year's convention is infrared or thermal imaging. The technology can help firefighters with wildfires by spotting hot-spots when it's dark, finding out the direction of the fire is heading, and rescuing people.

"The thermal capability itself is not that new but having it fully interrogated into our drone system and providing that data live to the operator and incident command is new and powerful," said Romero Durscher the Director of Public Safety Integration for DJI. "That's where the power of the technology comes to shine."

Drones have even been used to rescue people in Colorado.

In June 2017, a drone was used to help rescue two hikers and a dog near Devil's Head trail in Douglas County. The drone team made visual contact with the lost hikers. A search team on foot then made contact with the duo shortly after.

One of the companies at the drone convention, Aeryon, a local company in Denver, works with the United States Department of Defense. They created the technology that allows their unmanned crafts to have a payload kit where they can carry and deliver items.

"Say someone is up in the mountains and you can't get to them right away, the drone can be used to get them a medical pack, food, or water and drop it for them," said Tom Jackson the VP and GM for Aeryon Defense. "You could drop a cell phone or radio - anything to stay in touch with them while you try to get the on foot rescue in place."

Jackson said that one of the top priorities for the U.S. defense department is to equip rescuers on the ground with these capabilities.

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