Spanish drone company carries out ‘very successful’ first test in race to rescue dogs trapped by lava

The aircraft that will be used to reach the animals on La Palma traveled a distance of 1.2km carrying a 15.5kg load, and was left with 35% battery

A drone image of one of the dogs supplied by the authorities on La Palma
A drone image of one of the dogs supplied by the authorities on La PalmaLA PALMA LOCAL GOVERMENT / VOLCA (Reuters)

The chief executive of Spanish drone company Aerocamaras, Jaime Pereira, said on Wednesday that the first test run of an operation to rescue dogs left trapped by the lava from the new volcano on La Palma was “very successful.” The firm this week received the authorization needed to carry out a reconnaissance flight of the area, as well as to actually fly the animals out of the area where they are located.

Between four and six hunting dogs have been identified in an area of Los Llanos de Aridane on La Palma, which is one of the Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago located off the northwest coast of Africa. A new volcano has been erupting on the island since September 19, destroying thousands of homes and other properties, and creating a delta in the sea. Until now, the trapped animals have been supplied with food and water using smaller drones belonging to local companies. It is not known who owns the dogs.

The rescue operation is “viable,” according to the spokesperson for the drone company. The aircraft, which has been prepared specifically for the mission, traveled a distance of 1,200 meters with a cargo weighing 15.5 kilograms, ending the journey with 35% battery charge. “We will be there all day,” Pereira explained. “If they let us fly at night, we will be there at night because the thermal cameras give us much more information, because right now the temperature is very high.”

These high temperatures meant that yesterday there was no sign of the dogs. Pereira told media outlets that so far they have only detected two rabbits hidden under shrubs in the area, but explained that the animals could be “anywhere” given that it is very hot in the affected zone.

“No doubt they are hidden in some place and they will come out when the temperature falls,” explained Ricardo Hernández, a member of the Canaries’ Integral Animal Service. “They won’t move, above all so they don’t get worn out.” The veterinarian insisted that these are “very tough dogs,” explaining that he had “found dogs after they’ve been lost for 30 days and when you see them, you ask yourself, how can you still be standing?” Given the presence of swimming pools in the area, he added, “they won’t lack water. And while they have water, they can survive 30, 40 or 50 days.”

The rescue team said that it had “meticulously planned” the operation. The drones will first start by delivering food and water to the dogs, which will allow the operators to use a zoom camera and a thermal camera to inspect the area. At the same time, the animals will become accustomed to the noise and the presence of the aircraft.

The drone during the test run on Wednesday.
The drone during the test run on Wednesday.Aerocamaras

The second stage will see Aerocamaras use a cargo drone equipped with a bespoke logistical system adapted to the characteristics of the animals, together with a support drone that will be used to plan the rescue flight. Food will be used as bait, and once one of the animals is inside the cargo system it will ascend so that the animal can be extracted over the lava flows. One animal will be moved at a time.

“Yesterday we carried out a manual test,” Hernández explained. “The head of the dog fits perfectly in the net. It can move in and out, so that it doesn’t damage him. Given the dimensions of the net, we are hoping that the animal will be suspended by its body and will have its extremities free so that it suffers the least damage possible.”

Sources from the animal organization stated yesterday that the alarm was raised about the trapped animals on October 7, after they were detected by a drone being used by a team of German scientists in a water deposit. Pereira denied on Wednesday that there has been any contact with the owners of the dogs.

More information

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS