The Optimist Citizen

College graduate uses drone to rescue four fishermen stuck in sea storm

Bengaluru based B.Tech student, Dewang Subil, with the help of his drone, saved the lives of four fishermen whose boat got capsized in the sea earlier this January.

Dewang Subil
Dewang Subil with the rescue team

It could have been a tragic day for four fishermen of Thalikulam village, Kerala after their boat capsized mid-voyage on a high tide. They were on their daily grind when the storm took a violent turn. The rescue team had helpless hours of heavy search but to no avail.  It could have had terrifying consequences if not for the prompt response of Dewang Subil, an engineering student from Bengaluru. His quick thought and action saved the lives of those fishermen and in a way – of their families too.

Quick Thought and Action

19-year-old Dewang, a B.Tech student from Christ University was in his hometown of Thalikulam just like every other student in times of pandemic. He was going about his routine when he came across the news of an accident that happened on the Thalikulam beach. Concerned, he reached out to his acquaintances who were fishermen to know more about the issue. As soon as he got there he realized the situation was far worse than what he had imagined. He was told that the Coast Guard had been in the deep sea searching for them for 6-7 hours to no avail. Without wasting a moment he came forward with an idea to use a drone in order to spot the fishermen. The idea was relatively new to the ears that heard it, but Dewang was confident it could prove useful. As an avid photographer, he had often spent hours with his drone on that beach trying to get perfect aerial shots. And knew that skill could probably help trace the fishermen faster. ‘’They had lost all hope of finding them. I thought there was still a one per cent chance. So, I acted on it,” says Dewang.


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Going the Distance

Using drones to find missing persons is not common in India. Dewang tells that he had to gain special permission to use his drone. MLA Geetha Gopi was extremely helpful in getting him that permission. No authorities tried to dismiss his idea as they all were very keen on saving those men at all cost. Initially, he thought that he could send his drone without having to board the rescue boat. But he was later told that those men were trapped far beyond the 10 KM distance. 

He figured he might need to get on board along with the rescue team to find those men. He quickly hopped on the rescue boat. He released his drone 12 KM into the deep blue sea. Within minutes of this, the first survivor was traced and rescued. The well-coordinated efforts with the rescue team ensured timely and quick rescue of all the fishermen within half an hour.


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Recognizing the Need of Technology

After the incident, many things are changing around the village. The paperwork for sea safety measures has begun. More survival kits are being provided by the State Fisheries Department and the Coast Guard to the fisherfolk for their safety. Measures are being taken to improve the alerting tactics in case of high tide or storm. The State Fisheries Department is even planning on employing more drones for rescue operations while providing the required skill to rescue teams in order to operate them.

Post-Rescue Days

As a personal project, Dewang has started a small social media campaign to raise funds for those fishermen who lost their gear on that day. What’s more, is that he is working on his own project where he is developing a prototype of automated drones which detects the location of the missing persons without human guidance. It will relay the information of their latitude and longitude to the nearest rescue team. It might help spot the missing persons not just in oceans but also in forests. Even his professors from Christ are helping him in his endeavour. Despite being the hero of this entire saga, Dewang humbly gives all the credit to the rescue operations team. Finally, when asked whether he would do it all over again he readily replied in affirmative. “Why not?” he smiles in response.


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