Fire department uses drone in river rescue

Auburn, Maine --(FOX 46)--Video of a Maine river rescue is going viral after the fire department decided to use a drone to help rescue two trapped boys.

The Auburn Fire Department was assisting another local department reach two boys trapped on a rock in the fast flowing Androscoggin River when they noticed one child was not wearing a life jacket. Auburn Fire Chief Frank Roma grabbed his personal drone from his vehicle and attached a long rope to it. He then flew the rope out to the boys before sliding a life jacket down the line.

"I didn't want them to reach to grab something that could have made him fall into the river," Chief Roma said to Fox 46 News. Traditionally rescuers will throw the line out to victims before sliding jackets and other gear.

The boy was able to safely retrieve the life jacket before the actual rescue began. Chief Roma then flew his drone above the river, recording video as rescuers climbed into a boat and into the raging river.

"I used the drone for reconnaissance," Chief Roma said," I searched for anything downstream that could have become a problem."

After the two boys were safely rescued, the department posted images to their Facebook page. Their video has been viewed thousands of times.

Chief Roma, who personally bought the drone to capture scenic landscapes, is happy he was able to add a positive story to the ongoing drone discussion.

"It creates confidence in the use of drones," Chief Roma said.

Chief Roma says he will continue to keep his drone, a DJI Phantom 3 costing about a thousand dollars, nearby just in case something like this happens again.

The FAA is working to establish official rules when it comes to flying unmanned aircraft for personal, commercial or emergency purposes. Currently only a handful of individuals are officially authorized to use the devices.

Chief Roma says he believes the boys were exploring the river when a nearby dam released excess water and caused the river to suddenly rise.