Swiss drone a lifeline in alpine search and rescue operations

A Swiss drone company says its robot called 'Elios' has unique features that can help in rescue missions.

Flyability's drone can fly into treacherous and difficult-to-reach places, and has been put to the test with a mountain rescue team at the Zermatt Glacier in the Swiss Alps.

Working with the Zermatt Glacier Rescue team, the drone was able to fly tens of meters below the glacier surface, while transmitting live video.

It also has the ability to remain stable after hitting something, which the company says makes it "collision safe" and safe for humans.

This technology is particularly useful to rescue teams in crevasse fall emergencies, as the drone is able to find the injured person using heat-sensing technology and send information back to rescue parties in dangerous situations.

It is also used to assess other situations including industrial inspection and security operations.

During a test rescue with the Zermatt Glacier team the drone helped to locate the 'victim' in a crevasse, sending live footage back to the team above the ice.

This helped the team reach the person more quickly, and helped them prepare for the terrain.

Flyability's Marc Gandillon told Sky News the drone is unique in the market because of a gimbal in the middle which "allows the drone to be decoupled so the cage protecting it can rotate freely around the drone", meaning it can collide with obstacles and remain stable.

As a bonus, the drone was able to capture stunning footage of the glacier during the rescue operation, rarely seen by humans.

However, severe weather conditions including strong winds and heavy fog could be a limitation for the drone, and cost will certainly be a barrier - the going rate for an Elios is US$25,000 (NZ$34,492).