A pair of stranded motorists in the Oregon wilderness have a drone to thank for their safe rescue, after they became stranded in freezing temperatures on an unmaintained forest road with no cellphone reception.
First covered by KRNV News 4, a motorist became stuck on a road in the Willamette National Forest thanks to deep snow. The man was then approached by a woman who had been stranded for a day in the same area in a minivan, as reported by Outside Online. The incident occurred on January 30, near the Box Canyon horse camp in the Cascade Mountain Range. Both vehicles were stuck fast, and the location had no cellphone reception to call for help. Worse, neither motorist had notified anyone of their journey or expected time of return. The low-trafficked road offered little prospect of anyone passing by to help, either.
After a night spent in the wilderness, the man came up with a simple plan to call for help. After typing out a text message to a friend on his cellphone, the man then attached the device to his aerial drone. Flying the drone up to several hundred feet got the phone within line of sight to a cell tower, allowing it to send the message and raise the alarm. The man’s friend then provided his location to authorities, with Lane County Sherriff’s Search and Rescue team heading out to rescue the stranded motorists. Rescuers found the pair healthy and well despite their ordeal.
Using the drone to get a cell signal was a nifty trick. The Drive’s own journalists have used similar techniques in remote areas, like lofting a 4G WiFi hotspot on a selfie stick to gain better reception. The basic trick is to get the cellular device high enough such that it can get a clear line of sight to a cell tower. Often, mountain ranges, trees, or the Earth’s curvature itself can get in the way of high-frequency cell signals. Getting some altitude above these obstacles is often enough to get a usable connection.
If you’re stuck without a drone, simply standing on a vehicle or climbing to a higher vantage point may help you get reception. However, particularly in freezing conditions, your best chance of survival is to stay with your vehicle, according to authorities. “Rarely does anyone in Oregon die from exposure waiting in their vehicle to be found and rescued, but we have unfortunately seen many poor outcomes from those who chose to walk away,” says Lane County Sherriff’s Search and Rescue.
Getting a cellular internet dongle up high on the Nullarbor Plain can help you get a signal far from the sparsely-located towers. Lewin Day
While the drone was a useful tool in a crisis, authorities highlighted that following basic winter travel rules would have served the motorists well. When traveling unmaintained forest roads in winter, vehicles should travel in groups. Other vehicles can pull out a stuck vehicle, or carry people back to safety. It’s also important to notify responsible people of your exact travel plans so they can raise the alarm if you go missing. Finally, motorists should always pre-plan what they’ll do if they get stuck, rather than simply hoping they won’t.
In this case, some creative thinking got the stranded motorists out of trouble. Regardless, here’s hoping that this story reminds motorists to prepare properly for remote winter journeys, rather than simply sending everyone out to the store to buy drones.
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