Plan to use drone to rescue dogs trapped by volcano
La Palma, SPAIN – There are dogs trapped by lava on the Canary Island of La Palma in Spain, which erupted a few weeks ago and led to people being forced to leave the area.
Ever since it came alive on September 19, the Cumbre Vieja volcano has not stopped erupting and has since opened up three more vents that have leaked millions of cubic metres in lava on the island – effectively creating a new peninsula and displacing 7,000 people in the process.
Nearly 2,000 buildings and other infrastructure, including a coastal highway, have been destroyed.
It must have been in the confusion of the first days of eruption that these three dogs found themselves aloe and starving in an environment that had suddenly turned hostile.
In response, a Spanish drone operator sought permission to try and use drone technology to rescue the now emaciated dogs, by catching them with a remote-controlled net and flying them out over a stream of lava.
Jaime Pereira, CEO of drone operator Aerocamaras, said he plans to send a 50kg drone equipped with a wide net to try to trap the dogs, one by one, and fly them to safety, 450 metres away over flowing lava.
Trapped for weeks now in an abandoned yard blackened by volcanic ash on the island, the dogs have been living on food brought down by drones, which have been dropping it in packages.
But, according to Reuters, until now no one has been able to figure out how to rescue them. Helicopters are banned from flying to the area because of hot gas that can damage their rotors.
After evaluating the proposed rescue mission, emergency authorities said in a statement yesterday they had decided to allow it.
“It’s the first time an animal is being rescued with a drone and the first time it has to be captured,” Pereira told Reuters. “If that’s the last option that the dogs have? Then we’re going after them.”
The operator will have just four minutes to lure a dog to the net, and another four minutes to fly it out.
“What we don’t want is to run out of battery when flying over the lava,” Pereira said.
Test flights are still being carried out. Ultimately, the mission depends on how the dogs will respond to the machine, Pereira said.
“They’ve been eating very little for weeks. They might come, or become scared of the drone. We really depend on their reaction.”