MECHANIC FALLS, Maine — An inventive fire chief rigged a drone Tuesday to carry a haul line to two people stranded on a rock in the middle of a raging river to help rescue them.
The media attention generated by the unusual rescue made by Auburn (Maine) Fire Department Chief Frank Roma prompted calls from other fire chiefs across the nation asking about the drone, according to Portland station WTMW.
A 12-year-old boy and an 18-year-old man had been tubing on the Little Androscoggin River in Mechanic Falls when they got stuck on a rock in the rapids. The boy was wearing a life jacket, but the man wasn’t.
Photos and video from the incident were posted on the Auburn Fire Department’s Facebook page.
Roma decided to attach a haul line to a drone and then flew the drone to the middle of the river, where the man untied the line. A life jacket from the shore was then sent over to him.
Firefighters later rescued both in an inflatable rescue boat, while the drone took video of the rescue.
“I was able to take the drone out to him, lower it down to his level,” Roma told WMTW. “He was able to disconnect it and get the life vest on and then I was able to get the drone back up as an aerial observation.
“I think we’ve only begun to scratch the surface for what their full capabilities can be in the emergencies field,” Roma said of drones. “I was able to see exactly what the drone was seeing. I was able to direct it to where it needed to be.”
The chief has already received calls from fire departments across the county asking about the drone, he told the station.