Spanish drone company is preparing ‘unprecedented’ dog rescue on La Palma

by Deborah Cater
Drone to rescue dogs trapped by volcano

SANTA CRUZ DE LA PALMA – Several dogs are trapped on La Palma on islands surrounded by lava from the volcano Cumbre Vieja, which is still erupting. A Galician drone company is now preparing an ‘unprecedented’ rescue.

Until now, the dogs have been fed with small drones that have sole access to the places where the animals are trapped. It concerns four dogs in two isolated places. The drone footage of the lone Podencos has sparked a huge cry from social network users for their rescue. 

For the past week, both Ticom and the company Volcanic Life were responsible for bringing food and water. This work is carried out with light drones, weighing less than 250 grams. However, time is running out for the animals. The solution may come through a third company, this time from Galicia. Aerocamaras claims to have been working on a technological development for a week that will not only allow them to provide water and food, but also to get the dogs out of their islands. 

“It’s that or let them die”

“It is an unprecedented operation and never done in the world. But it’s that or let them die,” Jaime Pereira, CEO of the company, told El País. Over the past week, the company modified a device it had previously developed to transport goods to ships crossing the Strait of Gibraltar. This drone has a diameter of two and a half meters, can carry 24 kilos of weight and is “very stable when carrying loads”. 

Of course, it’s one thing to transport boxes of food and another to grab and lift living things. “The trapping system is the most complicated,” says the manager. The aircraft would have to travel 450 meters there and back the same distance. 

For the key moment – being able to grab the animals – the engineering department has developed a net that is able to land in a rigid form with wet food in the middle. “The problem is that you have to lure the dog to the centre of the net,” he explains. This task must be performed by two monitoring drones, in addition to the rescue drone. Once inside, the main drone would soar, leaving the dog trapped in the net. Only one at a time. “If a problem arises, we have planned a rapid release system to return the animal to the ground.” 

The plan is illegal

Aerocamaras also faces a problem that transcends technology: what they intend to do is illegal. Current legislation does not allow the transport of people or animals. In addition, the podencos are in an exclusion zone due to the volcanic emergency, greatly limiting the flight of drones. Pereira assures that the company he leads has already delivered all necessary documentation to the Advanced Command Post. They are the body that governs the volcanic crisis on the ground. 

Casa Las Dunas Spain

Related article: Concerns over air quality following eruption

“We support the emergency services,” said the spokesperson for Aerocamaras. “We know they have much more pressing problems than this. They have all the information about the emergency and know what the priorities are.” Therefore, they are waiting for their approval before starting the transfer of the team from Lalín (Pontevedra) to La Palma. 

The animal protection association leales.org,  urges the authorities via Twitter to remove all legal obstacles and allow the Galician company to rescue the dogs.

The important role of drones 

Drones are prominent technological protagonists in the volcanic eruption on La Palma. They have enabled scientists, emergency services and the media to obtain images of places that have been made inaccessible by the lava. In the early days of the eruption, one of these devices, operated by amateur pilot Antonio Carrillo, also helped many residents check the status of their properties, which had been besieged by volcanic lava flows. 

Petition 

Carrillo’s ban on continuing to fly his drone, as it violates current law, has sparked a major citizen protest with hundreds of posts on social networks.

Here is a petition to sign asking the authorities to allow the rescue operation. 

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