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Drone may aid in search for missing Boise doctor at Craters of the Moon

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Photo: Video by IdahoOnYourSide.com

Drone may aid in search for missing Boise doctor at Craters of the Moon

By Eric Fink. CREATED Oct 17, 2013

Search crews at Craters of the Moon National Monument are turning to technology to help locate missing hiker Jo Elliot-Blakeslee. Park officials would like to use a drone to cover treacherous terrain.

"The ground, the lava flows... it's extremely difficult terrain to walk in," Craters of the Moon Superintendent Dan Buckley said. "Normally a person walks three-miles an hour, in this kind of terrain. You're fortunate to do one mile an hour."

As a result, search crews have been able to cover only a fraction of the area.  A drone could speed up the process. Although, to Buckley's knowledge, one has never been used by a national park to locate a missing person.

The technology is nothing new to law enforcement here in the Treasure Valley. Canyon County has used its drone as an extra man out in the field for more than a year in crime scene investigation and search and rescue efforts. Its Chief Deputy of Fire says the technology is invaluable and relatively cheap.

"The drone itself is- we're looking at almost $50,000," Caldwell Fire Department's Deputy Chief Steve Donahue said. "A back injury is upwards of $100,000 by the time you resolve that. If we can keep people out of harms way as much as possible, it's definitely worth it."

Buckley and his team are also considering using a helicopter with a camera aboard, but the imagery a drone could capture is ideal for all the nooks and crannies in the park.

"With the high resolution imagery from a fixed-wing helicopter you might be able to identify an arm or a leg," Dan Buckley said. "With a drone you could identify a fingernail. Somebody could search with it from their kitchen table looking at their laptop."

If a drone is brought into the search, it must be done before the craters are covered in snow.