A model drone has helped locate an elderly man in Wisconsin who had been missing for three days.
Search teams using dogs, helicopters and volunteers had combed the countryside around Fitchburg seeking Guillermo DeVenecia.
The drone found Mr DeVenecia, who has Alzheimer’s, about 20 minutes after its operator joined the search effort.
The success may put pressure on US rules limiting the use of drones in search and rescue operations.
Mr DeVenecia was spotted stumbling around in a bean field by a drone flown by David Lesh who usually uses the craft to make videos for his skiing and snowboarding business in Colorado. Mr Lesh was in Fitchburg to visit his girlfriend’s family.
When he heard about the community-wide effort to locate the 82-year-old he decided to join in and used the drone to scout areas the missing man may have wandered into.
“I never thought that I would be using it to find somebody,” Mr Lesh told NBC.
A medical check revealed Mr DeVenecia was only mildly dehydrated after his three-day sojourn and thought he had only been out for a short walk.
The case comes after the Federal Aviation Administration lost a court case brought by Texan firm EquuSearch which had been using small drones in its rescue operations.
EquuSearch was banned from using drones in February by the FAA citing rules dating from 2007 that barred commercial use of unmanned aircraft.
The court decision had no impact on the FAA’s authority to regulate the use of drones, the agency told tech news site Ars Technica.
However, in March a US court found that the FAA rules banning commercial use of drones were put into force illegally because it had not done enough to solicit comment from the public. The FAA has appealed against that decision.
In addition, the FAA has said it will take another look at its rules governing drones and aim to put new rules in place by the end of 2015.