Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are promising technologies within many different application scenarios including human detection in search and rescue and surveillance use cases, which have received considerable attention worldwide. However, adverse conditions, such as varying altitude, overhead camera placement, changing illumination and moving platform, impose challenges for high-performance yet cost-efficient human detection. To overcome these challenges, we propose a novel combination of dilated convolutions with Path Aggregation Network (PAN) as a new deep neural network-based human detection algorithm in real time. Furthermore, we establish a comprehensive human detection dataset with varying backgrounds, illuminations, and contrast and train the proposed machine-learning model on the collected dataset. Our approach achieves both high precision (88.0% mean Average Precision (mAP)) and real time (67.0 Frames Per Second (FPS)) on a commercial off-the-shelf PC platform. In terms of accuracy, the result is comparable to the standard You Only Look Once v3 (YOLOv3). However, the speed is twice as that of the standard YOLOv3. YOLOv4 is slightly more accurate (89.8%) than our approach. However, it is slower (38.0 versus 67.0 FPS) and has more Billion Floating-Point Operations (BFLOPS). The proposed algorithm has also trained with the VisDrone2019 dataset and compared with seven studies using this dataset. The results have further validated the effectiveness of the proposed approach. Moreover, the algorithm has been evaluated on an embedded system (Jetson AGX Xavier), which demonstrates the usefulness of this method on power-constrained devices. The proposed algorithm is fast, memory efficient, and computationally less expensive to achieve high detection performance. It is expected to contribute significantly to the wider use of UAV applications including search and rescue missions to locate missing people, and surveillance particularly for applications running on resource-constrained platforms, like smartphones or tablets. This proposed system is now being used in aerial drone system of Police of Scotland to help them locate and find missing and vulnerable people. The results of the project were broadcasted by BBC Scotland.