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A Drone Company Will Airlift Stranded Dogs. Over a Stream of Lava?

'It's the first time an animal is being rescued with a drone.'

A Drone Company Will Airlift Stranded Dogs. Over a Stream of Lava?
A stranded dog in La Palma. Cabildo de La Palma/Facebook

One month on from the eruption of a volcano in the Spanish isle of La Palma that has required thousands to evacuate and caused millions in damages, there is still no end in sight to the constant lava flow.

A Spanish drone firm will use its technology to attempt to rescue three dogs stranded near the volcano, amid worries the animals will not be reachable any time soon by land, a Reuters report explains.

The dogs have been trapped for weeks in a yard covered in ash since around the time the volcano first erupted on September 19.

110-lbs drone to fire remote-controlled nets at stranded dogs

It will be a dangerous operation as the drone company, called Aerocamaras, will capture the dogs via remote-controlled nets before flying them out over an ongoing stream of lava emanating from the live volcano on La Palma. The firm said it will use a 110-lbs (50-kg) drone and that it will rescue the dogs one by one by carrying them 1,476 feet (450 meters) away over the flowing lava in the area. The drone operator will have only four minutes to capture a dog with its net and then four minutes to fly it away from the area. 

Helicopters cannot fly to the area where the dogs are located because hot gas from the eruption could damage their rotors and cause a crash. So far, the drone company has fed the dogs by sending drone-delivered food packages to the animals that are otherwise inaccessible – the footage below shows how entire areas of La Palma have been cut off due to the lava flow.

It's 'the last option the dogs have'

In an interview with Reuters, Jaime Pereira, CEO of Aerocamaras, said "it's the first time an animal is being rescued with a drone and the first time it has to be captured. If that's the last option that the dogs have? Then we're going after them." Pereira also mentioned a possible nightmare scenario caused by the limitations of drone battery technology, and the tricky nature of the operation, which relies partly on the cooperation of the stranded canines: "What we don't want is to run out of battery when flying over the lava," he said. In order to carry out the mission as safely as possible, the drone operator is currently carrying out test flights to practice before sending its drones to the location near the live volcano.

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Though this is likely the first time a dog has been carried to safety by a drone, operators in China guided a herd of wayward elephants home with the aid of drones. In that case, however, the drones were only used to keep track of the animals. The technology is also being trialed for first responder operations in the case of natural disasters and emergencies. Here's hoping the novel method for extracting the otherwise inaccessible animals to safety goes off without a hitch.

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