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Military drone helped look for missing schoolteacher

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The Air National Guard has sent a drone -- an actual MQ-9 Reaper and not a small hobbyist machine -- to help find a missing schoolteacher in San Francisco. He was last seen riding his blue motorcycle on July 17th. The drone was deployed on Wednesday morning and flew for a few hours, scouring the El Dorado National Forest using infrared and its high-tech cameras to look for any sign of the 46-year-old high school instructor, Edward Cavanaugh. While its efforts didn't pay off in the end (the teacher hasn't been found yet), it's a nice reminder that drones can also be used for good. It's easy to forget that when you often hear bad things, such as how they hindered aerial firefighting efforts in the same state, how big companies want to use them to inject spyware and how the government uses them for surveillance.

They can be incredibly helpful in search and rescue operations, especially when you're dealing with locations humans can't go to, such as collapsed buildings or irradiated areas. The MQ-9 is a large drone with a 66-foot wingspan; it's even larger than the MQ-1, which you might be familiar with, since the pictures of one that crashed in Iraq made the rounds on Twitter. It's typically used for military operations and is more than capable of carrying weapons, but it was reportedly not equipped with any while looking for Mr. Cavanaugh. The National Guard has submitted a request for more Reapers meant for domestic missions just recently. Hopefully, that means they get sent to more rescue missions or to aid in fighting forest fires like one did back in 2013 by beaming back real-time images of the situation for more effective firefighter deployment.

[Image credit: USAF Photographic Archives]

Source: USA Today, SFGate
Coverage: Defense Systems
In this article: california, drone, UAV
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