A drone helped searchers go where humans physically couldn’t during their search for the three missing men after a mudslide on the Western Slope.
Chris Miser saw the devastating mudslide in Mesa County first hand through a view that many cannot see, by using drones.
“It was mind blowing to see how big it was and how much energy it had,” said Miser.
The Air Force veteran owns Falcon Unmanned. The Aurora-based company sells unmanned aerial vehicles otherwise known as drones.
After the landslide authorities left the area because of the possibility of more slides.
Miser donated his services to the Mesa County Sheriff.
“There’s not a man in the cockpit so it’s a safe mission to fly,” said Miser.
The three men were checking on problems with an irrigation ditch caused by an initial slide Sunday when a large chunk of a ridge broke off, sending soggy earth spilling like wet cement for 3 miles. The slide is about three-quarters of a mile across and several hundred feet deep at the center.
The men were Clancy Nichols, 51, who also worked as a county road and bridge employee; his son Danny Nichols, 24; and Wes Hawkins, 46, who worked for the local water district.
The rescue has turned into a recovery mission.
Miser’s drones mapped out the three-mile mudslide area with 3-D images and high definition video.
The pictures showed the stunning depth of the slide.
Miser said negative publicity has given drones a bad rap, “We just need to change their perceptions with the positive uses of the drones and show them they’re not all these evil military machines but they have some practical purposes.”
Miser said the Mesa County mission shows the endless possibilities that drones offer from monitoring oil and gas pipelines to wildfires. He believes the landslide is just the beginning of an aerial revolution.
“In a few years we’re going to see the airspace full of them and they’re all going to be doing things that will help people save money, create jobs and save lives,” said Miser.
Miser’s next project takes him to Africa on behalf of the World Wildlife Foundation where he’ll use the drones to help track down poachers.