A mountain rescue team is to use a drone to find missing climbers, with a mobile phone app meaning members of the public can take part in the search operation.
The pilot-less technology, which is usually a feature of war zones, will be trialled to save lives on the Lake District fells.
The ‘Aerosee’ drone relays back 100 images a second, allowing people who have downloaded the app to click on any area of the image where they think they have spotted an injured person on the mountainside.
These images are then relayed to the rescue team.
Patterdale Mountain Rescue Team, who are trialling the drone next week, said the technology could help searches by bringing in a potential army of volunteers.
Team leader Mike Blakey said: “Mountain rescue is changing as new technology is available.
“Drones may be really useful in some scenarios and the idea of getting people to help with the rescue wherever they are in the world is really interesting. It taps into all the social media ways that people are using digital technology.”
The technology has been developed by scientists from the University of Central Lancashire, and will be tested on July 25.
Paul Egglestone, director of the aerospace and media innovation studio at the university, said: “Drones get lots of bad press as they’re usually associated with the military.
“The unique thing about our approach is that we’re inviting civic-minded people to give up 20 minutes of their time to help save a life on the mountainside. It turns the whole drone debate on its head.”
Unmanned aircraft have been used to target terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but now the technology is being utilised to rescue lost walkers in the countryside.
Drones have also been deployed to track suspected rhino poachers in South Africa.
To take part online, follow the instructions at http://www.aerosee.org.