Disasters & Accidents

Drone crew holds test flight in race to save dogs trapped by La Palma lava

Santa Cruz de La Palma, Spain, Oct 20 (EFE).- A specialist drone company on a mission to evacuate a pack of dogs stranded by lava flows on the Spanish Canary Island of La Palma successfully conducted a simulation of the rescue on Wednesday.

The plight of the animals has grabbed international media attention and the dangerous rescue mission, which will be closely watched, has fallen to the company Aerocámaras, which was contracted by animal welfare group Leales.

At least four podencos, a local breed of dog, have been spotted taking refuge in the vicinity of two man-made ponds dotted on opposite sides of a patch of land that has so far been spared by the red-hot lava flows from the ongoing Cumbre Vieja eruption.

Rescuers plan to airlift the dogs from the hazardous area one by one using a net attached to a drone.

But in order to get authorization for the operation, the team had to demonstrate that it was possible to fly the drone safely for 1.2 kilometers while carrying a 15-kilogram load.

Testing the equipment at a local football stadium, the team exceeded those requirements Wednesday by 200 meters and 1.5kg. The drone completed the distance with 35% battery left to spare, Leales said on Twitter.

The operation has been carefully planned. The first stage will be to deliver food and water to the animals while the team uses telescopic lenses and thermal cameras to decide where the best extraction point will be.

Rescuers then hope to lure a dog into the net using food. Once the animal steps on the net, it closes, allowing the drone to fly up and over the lava flow to safety.

The situation of each dog will be evaluated individually during the evacuation.

Aerocámaras CEO Jaime Pereira told press that rescuers had been unable to locate the dogs when conducting a drone flyover Wednesday afternoon, although he assumed the animals had taken shelter to avoid the day’s peak temperatures, which are exacerbated by the surrounding volcanic activity.

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