Steamboat Springs man seeks to organize volunteer drone search and rescue group

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STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. — Amateur drone pilot Movses Mikaelyan says he wants to organize a volunteer drone search and rescue group, but is concerned about the impact of heavily publicized night-time drone flights over northeast Colorado.

Mikaelyan, who works in IT and has been flying drones for years, said he used his drone last week to help locate a missing man’s wrecked car.

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“The canyon where we were looking has wires going all across it, so you cannot fly a helicopter in there,” he said. “But drones are tiny and very precise. With the goggles, I can actually see wires while flying it remotely.”

He said when he spotted the car, he could tell there were no footprints in the snow, so it was likely bad news.

“I kind of panicked and was freaking out a little,” he said. “I looked at my phone and didn’t have cell service, so I flagged a car down and asked the lady that was driving to call 911.”

Authorities confirmed the driver died in the crash after driving off the highway and down a steep ravine, which wasn’t visible from the highway.

The Steamboat Springs area resident said he’s very concerned about drone squadrons reportedly flying grid patterns at night in the rural areas of northeastern Colorado.

“Not even the FAA or the FBI know who’s flying those drones,” he said. “So, in that scenario, I would call those drones hostile.”

Mikaelyan noted that the Department of Homeland Security has issued a National Terrorism Advisory Bulletin after a successful U.S. airstrike in Iraq that killed the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force. So, terrorism is on Americans’ minds now.

“These are 8-foot drones flying around… and the FAA and FBI don’t know who’s flying them,” Mikaelyan said. “If that’s not concerning, I don’t know what is.”

He said he’s especially concerned about the secret drones because he’s a hobbyist.

“If you spread panic about what’s going on with those drones and what they’re doing, eventually people are going to be like, ‘You know what? We don’t want any kind of drones anywhere,” he said.

Mikaelyan said the miniature flying machines have many beneficial uses.

“If you’re a farmer, you can take pictures of your crops with a drone and there is software that will analyze it,” he said.

He said he uses his drone to record the beautiful vistas of western Colorado, so he can post them on Facebook.

Sunset near Steamboat Springs

He’s often out with his cat Spirit, who accompanies him during his “flight operations.”

“She cheers me up,” he said. “She likes it out here in the snow.”

He added that he always shows inquisitive people the photos or video that he’s recording, so they don’t worry what he’s up to.

When asked how he’ll go about organizing a volunteer search and rescue group, he said, “I was going to start a Facebook group, or a page. We’re still discussing it, and everybody around here would already know about us.”

He, other drone pilots, and the general public will be anxiously waiting to see what information is released following a meeting Monday, between northeastern Colorado law enforcement agencies and the FAA, regarding the night-time drone flights in that part of the state.

Mikaelyan said he’s thinking about opening a drone shop in Steamboat Springs.

“They are so important and can help so many people,” he said. “I can’t think of anybody doing anything outdoors that couldn’t benefit from a drone.