By the time Const. Josh Brimble was called in, darkness had descended on the forest, and hours had passed since anyone had seen the missing 80-year-old hiker.

An officer in the Kingston Police Service’s traffic safety unit, Brimble was also in charge of the force’s two drones.

He fired up the smaller of the two, sent it skyward, but couldn’t spot the man. He then sent out the larger one, equipped with a thermal camera and an illuminated beacon, normally used for traffic collision reconstruction.

The man — who was non-verbal and only communicating with police by text message — was found soon after.

“He was actually in very good spirits for an older gentleman. And he actually wasn’t that bad off, and he was actually able to walk out of the area,” Brimble said a few days after the rescue last month.

“But he walked in pretty far.”

Had the man hiked in even further — or had he disappeared in one of the more remote parts of the province — those drones might not have…