Volunteers Using Drones To Help Find Missing Pets

Antony Rumming of Denmead in southeast England’s Hampshire county has always felt the need to help people. As a former London Metropolitan Police Officer, Antony was well aware of the priority pressures police officers face. “If you report a missing or stolen pet it’s not going to be a priority,” Antony said. “Last year we lost our dog and it took 16 hours to find him. If we’d had a drone we’d have found him in minutes. If a pet is taken the chances of it being reunited with its owner through the police are limited.” Shortly thereafter, Antony inherited a drone from his father and began structuring a plan for how to use it to help people.

He came up with Denmead Drone Search and Rescue (DDSR), a volunteer organization that utilizes available tools to rescue missing people and pets. DDSR started with just a few volunteers with access to drones, off-road vehicles, boats, and even horses that could assist in locating a missing person or pet. DDSR has grown to have community volunteers all over England ready to pitch in and help their neighbors in just 3 years. Such was the case when 3 year old rescue pup Millie, a Jack Russell/Whippet mix went missing on January 13, 2022.

Millie had come loose of her collar when out for a walk with her owner, Emma Oakes, in Hampshire. Terrified that her small dog would be lost forever, Emma contacted DDSR. Chris Taylor, a DDSR volunteer organized a search mission. The first step was to have a volunteer drone pilot search the area for Millie. After a few hours, Millie was spotted on the coastal mudflats, a treacherous area that was due to flood soon from the incoming tide. Once the drone had located Millie, Chris said the team tried reaching the dog by foot and from a kayak.

However, the mudflats proved to be inaccessible, and time was running out. This is when Chris says the drone pilot had the genius idea of tying a sausage to the drone and using it to lure Millie to safety. A local woman quickly volunteered to cook up some tasty sausages and provide the team with some rope. “The string was tied around the body of the drone and around the sausage to make it dangle around two or three meters, it was very hard to gauge how close you were to the ground, but it worked somehow,” said Stefani Dennis, another DDSR volunteer. “People were walking by and didn’t know what was going on, it was hilarious.”

By this time, Millie had been on her own for 2 days and was very hungry. She followed the bait, grabbing hold of the sausage and almost taking down the drone at one point. But ultimately, the baited drone was able to lead Millie out of the mudflats, when she got spooked and ran off again. Luckily she had run off in a safer direction. A few days later, with DDSR’s continued drone searches, Millie was located and returned to Emma. “It was an unusual rescue, they aren’t normally this complicated,” Chris said. “It was very difficult to navigate the area. The drone was worth its weight in gold in this case.”

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