A drone company in Spain will attempt to rescue four dogs trapped by lava spewing from a volcano on the island of La Palma.
Volcanic gas and ash mean it’s too risky for a helicopter to go in, so Aerocamaras will try to rescue the animals using a drone.
It will, however, be a challenging operation.
For starters, the flying machine can only handle a payload of up to 51 pounds (23 kg), so the rescue effort will have to involve one dog at a time.
The plan is to land the drone close to the dogs and then lure one into a net carried by the remotely operated copter. Once a dog is in the net, the drone will take off and fly the animal over about 1500 feet (450 meters) of lava to safety, before returning to complete the rescue operation.
“Our pilots are conducting tests with the emergency teams at this time,” Aerocameras said in a tweet on Tuesday, October 19, adding, “Due to the complexity of the operation, we need calm and concentration.”
Aerocamaras CEO Jaime Pereira told Reuters his main concern was that the drone could run out of battery power while in flight, explaining that they only have four minutes to get each dog into the net.
He said the trapped dogs have been eating very little food and need to be rescued soon, adding that the success of the mission “really depends on [the dogs’] action.”
Pereira said the effort will mark the first time for an animal to be rescued with a drone after being captured, adding, “If that’s the last option that the dogs have, then we’re going after them.”
Aerocamaras has now received the necessary permits to fly the drone in the rescue zone and is expected to proceed with its plan in the coming days.
Drones have long been touted as the perfect solution for search and rescue operations, whether for assessing a location hit by a disaster or for airlifting those in need. The machine is especially useful in situations where it’s too dangerous for humans to attend a rescue in person, as in the case of the La Palma dogs.
The eruption on the small island of La Palma about 850 miles south-west of the Spanish mainland started on September 19 and has forced around 7,000 of its 85,000 people to abandon their homes. No casualties have so far been reported.