Drone-Led Rescue A First For Collier Sheriff


A missing elderly man was found in a wooded area in Golden Gate on Tuesday after Collier County Sheriff’s Office deputies used drones to track his whereabouts.

The 77-year-old man, who has health and mental challenges, became lost for more than two hours after he wandered from his residence in the area of Santa Barbara Boulevard and Golden Gate Parkway.

The Collier County Sheriff’s Office was contacted after the man failed to return home. Patrol deputies, assisted by the K9 Unit, Agriculture Unit, Traffic Unit and Investigations Division, launched a ground search, while the Aviation Unit searched by air.

The CCSO Drone Operations Unit was deployed shortly before 5 p.m. The search area was immediately divided into a grid and six drones began flying the area in search of the missing man.

At 5:27 p.m. Drone Pilot Cpl. Harley Terrill spotted the man through a canopy of trees walking between a house and garage of a residence.

Deputies immediately responded to the man’s location where he was recovered safely.  Paramedics were called to the scene to check his medical condition. After medical attention was rendered, the man was returned safe to his home.

This is the first time a drone led to a CCSO rescue. The rescue underscores the value of drone technology in law enforcement.

CCSO began using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or drones, in 2015 and was the first law enforcement agency in Florida to be certified to use drones for law enforcement purposes.

Each drone weighs less than 5 pounds and is equipped with a video camera. They are primarily used for tactical support, searches for missing people and event documentation. CCSO deployed drones following Hurricane Irma in 2017, the first major disaster in which drones were deployed locally.

All CCSO drone pilots are licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration and have completed an extensive training program designed by CCSO to assure they are proficient in operating a UAV and know state law and agency policy.