Volunteer Thermal Drone Pilot Helps Rescue Missing Boy

On October 15, 2019 in Central Minnesota, six year old Ethan Haus went missing in the woods for over 10 hours after running off after school to play with his dog. By the time night came and the temperature fell to 30 degrees, Ethan and his dog, Remington, were still missing.

Steve Fines, a pilot, photographer, and certified thermal drone operator, saw a Twitter message that the Sherburne County Sheriff’s Department had posted regarding the missing child.  Fines packed his gear and arrived at the command center of the search team with a Zenmuse XT2 camera fitted with FLIR thermal imaging technology.

However, his assistance was declined at that time, as a state patrol helicopter equipped with a thermal camera was flying above the area, and searchers believed the drone would be redundant. Eventually, the helicopter was called off without finding the missing boy, so Fines stayed behind in case he could be of assistance.

Around 10 PM, Fines was allowed to fly his drone to search for the lost pair. Around 1:30 AM, some of the more than 700 local volunteers searching by foot discovered a child’s footprint in a cornfield not far from Fines’ position. Fines narrowed his search to the cornfield based on this clue, and he soon spotted what appeared to be a dog’s head on his thermal camera. Fines directed ground crews to the area, hoping it might be Remington, the missing dog.



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