AI-powered drones give hope to lost hikers

  • In Scotland’s rugged terrain, drones are used for searching for lost hikers with higher efficiency.
  • Researchers from the University of Glasgow developed a machine-learning system to enhance drone search paths by analysing data from past rescue cases and geographic information.
  • In virtual tests, the AI-powered algorithm outperformed traditional search patterns, greatly improving the likelihood of finding missing persons while reducing drone flight distance.

While AI-powered drones could be helpful in terms of searching for lost hikers within a shorter period of time, appropriate regulations are needed. Otherwise, they may backfire.
Audrey Huang, BTW reporter

In Scotland’s rugged terrain, AI-driven drones are deployed for searching for lost hikers with higher efficiency.

Drone-assisted search operations

If a hiker gets lost in the rugged Scottish Highlands, rescue crew may send a drone to search for clues of the individual’s route. But with vast terrain to cover and limited battery life, optimising search areas in vast terrains remains a challenge. Traditionally, expert drone pilots would combine intuition and statistical “search theory”, a strategy with roots in World War II-era hunting of German submarines, to prioritise certain search spots over others. The AI-driven system, however, improves search efficiency by analysing past rescue data and geographic information.

In virtual tests, the AI-driven system outperformed traditional search patterns, significantly improving the chances of finding lost hikers while reducing drone flight distance.

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Overcoming challenges in search-and-rescue

While drones offer significant potential, regulatory restrictions and limited training data pose challenges. Addressing these issues and refining AI models could unlock greater capabilities for drone-assisted search operations, potentially saving more lives in emergency situations. Drones are becoming more and more common in the world of search and rescue. However, they are still a relatively new technology, and regulations surrounding their use are still changing.


Audrey Huang

Audrey Huang is an intern news reporter at Blue Tech Wave. She is interested in AI and startup stories. Send tips to

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