iPhone 13 Pro Owner Uses ‘MacGyver’ Drone Move to Text for Help

Image: Freighttrain Highway on YouTube

An iPhone 13 Pro and a DJI Air drone helped save a stranded traveller in the U.S. state of Oregon earlier this year, according to a report from The Washington Post.

37-year-old Casey Ryan, a photographer from Eugene, Oregon, got stuck in the snow with no cell reception on a trip into the Oregon forest with his friend.

The pair were stranded after they stopped to help out a woman whose Mercedes van had gotten stuck on a snowy patch about 30 miles into a road that winds through the Willamette National Forest. As Ryan attempted to hitch his truck to the van to pull it free, he ended up reversing into a snowdrift and getting stuck as well.

Attempts to dig his truck’s tires out of the snow were unsuccessful, and the travellers couldn’t call for help because they were out of cell coverage. While Ryan had walkie-talkies and the Mercedes driver had a radio, neither was able to transmit far enough. Hiking 30 miles back to the nearest town in the cold wasn’t a particularly appealing option, either.

Ryan and his friend ended up concocting a plan to attach Ryan’s iPhone 13 Pro Max to a DJI Air drone the pair had brought with them using some duct tape and string in what The Washington Post described as a “MacGyver” move. They based the idea on media reports of smugglers using drones to drop phones into prison yards.

“I was like, ‘That’s ingenious,'” said Ryan. The pair were hoping to fly the drone high enough for the phone to find a cell signal and send an SOS text Ryan had written to his wife.

They succeeded, and Ryan’s wife, who was out of the country at the time, received a text with their location, informing her of the situation and asking her to call AAA to tow the two vehicles. Ryan said that he didn’t contact 9-1-1 or ask his wife to call them because he didn’t believe their situation was urgent and wanted to avoid unnecessarily tying up emergency services.

Since help didn’t arrive immediately, the three travellers hunkered down in their vehicles overnight. Ryan and his friend had survival gear and several days’ worth of food and water with them, so their immediate safety wasn’t an issue.

Unfortunately, AAA told Ryan’s wife that they don’t service the mountain road in the snow. Instead, she called the Lane County Sheriff’s Office, which initiated a rescue. Volunteers from the Sheriff’s Office were able to locate and rescue the three travellers the next morning.

“I’ve been doing search and rescue since 2007,” said Jason Bowman, a search-and-rescue coordinator with the Lane County Sheriff’s Office. “And this was by far the most unique way I’ve ever seen somebody call for help.”

Ryan had to fly his phone up on the drone a total of three times to communicate back and forth with his wife, with the third flight resulting in a pretty rough landing. Fortunately, he came out of the ordeal with both his iPhone and the drone intact.

In light of what he had to go through, Ryan has purchased a GPS for his truck with a satellite phone service that he hopes will be more reliable. He likely would have been able to reach emergency services much more easily if he had Apple’s latest iPhone 14 Pro Max, which has satellite functionality built-in for emergencies just like this.

Apple’s Emergency SOS via Satellite service is currently free on all iPhone 14 models. Earlier this year, the feature saved two stranded travellers in British Columbia.

Ryan recently posted a video on YouTube where he narrated his experience and explained the makeshift phone sling he used to tether his phone to the drone. “Going forward, I hope I won’t have to do another drone flight rescue,” he said.

You can check out Ryan’s full video below:

YouTube video

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