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Personal Self-Rescue Drone to Debut in Late 2022

The autonomous iSAVE-U drone is capable of long-lining climbers off walls up to 50 miles away.

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We all know that high-angle rescues aren’t cheap. The average cost of a rescue helicopter starts at $1,600 per hour, and that’s on the low end. All told, most rescue operations end up with bills far higher than that—usually in the $50,000 range and beyond. They’re also notoriously technical and dangerous, involving no small amount of resources, personnel, and time.

However, the days of complex and costly on-the-wall rescues may soon be a thing of the past. 

A new “self-rescue drone” called the iSAVE-U promises to provide climbers with a reliable method of self-rescue any time they get in over their heads, all without any third-party involvement from search and rescue or emergency services.

“High-angle rescues aren’t just financially costly, time-intensive, and dangerous for all parties involved,” said Adam S. Simmons, iSAVE-U’s director of marketing. “Let’s be real here… They’re embarrassing. No one wants to get rescued. It means you made a mistake. In the modern world, people only want to put their best side forward. They want to get on Instagram and post summit photos, not photos of them getting helivaced off the wall after making a bad placement and whipping.” 

“With the iSAVE-U, your failures are kept between you and your rescue drone,” he continued. “You can get in over your head constantly, and your iSAVE will be there to bail you out. No one needs to be the wiser.”   

The drone offers nonstop GPS tracking for up to eight consecutive days, with an impressive 50 miles of range. As soon as the climber presses the patented “SAVE ME” button on their iSAVE-U PLB, which comes with an integrated carabiner to easily attach to a harness, the autonomous drone is immediately released from its homing bay (installed on top of the climber’s vehicle) and dispatched to the scene of the accident.

With a top speed of approximately 25 miles per hour, the iSAVE-U can reach most on-wall emergencies far faster than traditional SAR teams. Upon reaching the location of the homing beacon, the drone deploys a long line to the stranded climber. “All you have to do is clip in and enjoy the ride,” said Simmons. With a max weight of 300 pounds, the drone can support most individual climbers, and some two-member parties, as well.

Simmons and his team are still testing the drone in a variety of locations around the United States this summer, including Yosemite, Moab, and the New River Gorge, but he hopes that early models of the iSAVE-U will be available as part of an early-access system for climbers in winter 2022. 

He was reluctant to discuss an intended price for the rescue system with Climbing, but quipped, “It’ll be a hell of a lot cheaper than a chopper rescue, I can tell you that.”

“The point is, even the best climbers make mistakes,” Simmons added. “With the iSAVE-U, you can keep those mistakes to yourself. More importantly, you can go after wilder, more dangerous objectives without having to take responsibility for yourself if things go wrong.”

“Just press ‘SAVE ME’ and our drone will come to grab you.”

Happy April 1st!—Ed.

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