VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Beach Police rescued an 80-year-old man dementia patient at Sentara Hospice Services over the weekend who was found stuck in the woods in a ditch.

According to police, officers were searching the surrounding next to Sentara Hospice, which is located just off the highway. Officers had to battle with dense terrain, cold temperatures and dark skies, but a fully equipped helicopter came to the rescue.

“Had he been in that water, he probably would have succumbed to hypothermia or been pretty severely injured,” Sgt. Mark Miller, NBPD Aviation Unit Supervisor, said. “I think the aircraft and the technology on board was a game changer.”

The Virginia Beach Aviation Unit was also in the air doing regular patrol when they got a call to help search for a missing man. From an altitude of around 600 feet, a Virginia Beach Police helicopter provided a different view for on-foot officers.

“Officers on the ground are restricted to foot,” Sgt. Miller said. “Everything they are seeing is from a linear view. We get a worldly view.”

Sgt. Miller said the technology within the helicopter helped the crew spot the man. Forward-looking infrared mounted to the front of the helicopter is one of the main tools used.

“It detects temperature variants between human beings, an animal or a building or something that is warm versus something that it cold. It compares it to the surroundings,” Sgt. Miller said. “His heat signature was very evident.”

He said the technology gives the department more direction and a lot more confidence for on-foot officers. With the technology, it didn’t take much time in the sky before the crew spotted the man.

Over the radio, police said, “It’s going to be a subject laying in the wood line. Go ahead and bring some medical personnel with you.”

Sgt. Miller said the man was about 40 feet away from Sentara Hospice. For the crew in the air, the next task was getting officers to the tree line.

“The pilot was guiding the officer on the ground to go to a certain building and then from that building go a certain direction,” Sgt. Miller said.

Thankfully, on-foot officers were able to locate the patient. It was another job well done for the Aviation Unit and responding officers. Sgt. Miller said the aviation unit reaches more successful conclusions than not.

“I can tell you I am extremely proud of these guys. I am extremely impressed,” he said.