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Firefighters use drone to help rescue stranded rafters

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Auburn Fire Department

Firefighters in the town of Mechanic Falls, Maine, have successfully used a drone in a river rescue operation. Earlier this week, two young men aged 12 and 18 became stranded on a rock in the middle of some fast-moving rapids, says the local fire department, but only the younger of the pair was equipped with a life jacket. While rescuers began setting up an inflatable dinghy to retrieve the young men, Fire Chief Frank Roma used his DJI Phantom 3 to fly a haul line out to them. The unnamed 18-year-old then used this to pull in a life jacket before the tricky rescue operation began.

"I was able to take the drone out to him, lower it down to his level."

"I was able to take the drone out to him, lower it down to his level," Roma told local TV station WMTW. "He was able to disconnect it and get the life vest on and then I was able to put the drone back up as an aerial observation." The Auburn Fire Department posted videos from the rescue operation taken by the drone to Facebook. They show the stranded rafters — who had reportedly set off in an inner tube — pulling in the life jacket.

Untying haul line from the drone.

Posted by Auburn Fire Department on Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Roma told WMTW that he'd bought the drone with his own money, but that he thought the machines had great potential as search-and-rescue tools. "I think we've only begun to scratch the surface for what their full capabilities can be in the emergencies field," said Roma. "I was able to see exactly what the drone was seeing. I was able to direct it to where it needed to be."

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