Heroes with Drones: The Dedicated Volunteers Rescuing Lost Dogs

When Boycie, the old tyme bulldog, leapt over a fence, spooked by a passing hot air balloon, his worried owner Ralph Slaney exclaimed, “You don't realise what you've got 'till it's gone.” Yet, thanks to an extraordinary team of volunteers, Boycie was found safe and sound, all thanks to cutting-edge technology, drones, coordinated efforts, and even some streaky bacon.

Drone Search and Rescue (SAR) for Lost Dogs has become a beacon of hope for distressed pet owners in recent years. Operating through a Facebook group, this incredible 6,000-strong volunteer force uses advanced technology including drones and thermal imaging cameras, combined with some good old-fashioned methods involving sausages, smoked bacon, and sardines to track down missing pets.

Graham Burton, the brain behind Drone SAR, initiated this venture in 2017. Sparked by a post of a missing golden retriever, he thought, “Why not use drones?”

From its humble beginnings, the group has now swelled to 79,000 members, inclusive of 3,500 drone pilots and 2,750 ground searchers. Their efforts have culminated in the rescue of more than 4,000 dogs.

The heartwarming stories are endless. Last week, the Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer lent his hand in distributing leaflets for the search of Chilli, a nine-year-old spaniel-retriever cross.

After a harrowing four days, the dog was reportedly found 100 meters down a steep ledge in the Lake District. Emma Charvet, Chilli's owner, and a friend of Starmer expressed her relief, saying Chilli “just looked so pleased to be the centre of attention.”

The operation is thorough. Once a distressed owner posts their dog's photo on the Facebook group, Burton jumps into action, gauging the area's potential hazards, from railways to motorways. Volunteers are then promptly dispatched.

Peter Milner, a self-proclaimed “consultant drone guru”, uses a DJI Mavic 2 drone to assist in searches. This high-tech drone, combined with his custom “rapid response vehicle”, makes him a formidable force in the quest to find lost pets. “I'll do anything that's necessary to recover a dog,” he affirmed.

But technology isn't the sole hero. Practical insights and techniques play a pivotal role too. Helen Parkin, a volunteer searcher, advises against shouting for a lost dog as it might drive them further away. Instead, a “good girl, good boy tone of voice” is more effective.

Once a dog's movement pattern is determined, usually in a circular or triangular manner, a food station is set up. Using internet-connected doorbells, the volunteers then monitor the dog's movements. And once spotted, a food-trap cage is strategically placed, ensuring the dog's safe capture.

Recently, Loki, a dachshund-pomeranian cross, was successfully trapped using this ingenious method. Burton pointed out the special challenges posed by terriers, who tend to go underground. In such cases, wafting tempting aromas of garlic, bacon, and sausages down rabbit holes has proven effective.

In a world increasingly dominated by technology, the heartfelt collaboration between man, machine, and even some streaky bacon, showcases humanity's enduring love for its four-legged friends.

The sheer dedication of Drone SAR for Lost Dogs, their state-of-the-art techniques combined with age-old wisdom, reiterates an essential truth – where there's a will, there's a way.

So the next time a dog goes missing, know that there's an army of volunteers, drones in the sky, and bacon on the grill, all ready to bring them home.

You can find more stories about how drones are used for good on DroneXL!

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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of DroneXL.co, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and EVXL.co, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ dronexl.co or @hayekesteloo.

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