Intended to be drone airlifted to safety, La Palma’s dogs may have already been rescued

drones rescue dogs

The saga of several dogs trapped for weeks by lava flows from the La Palma volcano has taken a mysterious new twist, following reports that a group has managed to whisk them to safety even as a drone airlift rescue was being readied.

As DroneDJ reported on Friday, Aerocámaras – a UAV services company from Spain’s mainland – completed a promising test flight on La Palma for a planned rescue operation using drones to haul the stranded dogs out of their molten entrapment. The company’s CEO said that trial used a specially equipped craft to fly a 15.5-kilogram payload a distance of 1.2 km – considerably farther than the 450 meters required to lift the animals out of their lava encirclement – and still had 35% of its battery left for use. A tailor-made system to shoot a net around a simile canine target so it could be transported also functioned as hoped. 

All that was left, Aerocámaras said as the week closed out, was for spiking temperatures from a burst of volcanic eruption to fall. As soon as they did, the company said it would initiate the process by resuming flights to drop food to the dogs, then hover long enough for thermal sensors to locate the spots they’d taken to hiding themselves in to escape the heat.

But now it may be the creatures hadn’t been seeking refuge in cooler places after all, but had instead been located, reached, and removed by a mysterious group claiming to have saved the critters.

Even before Aerocámaras staged its late week test flight, a video was posted to YouTube suggesting the reason for the dogs’ sudden invisibility was that they were no longer present inside the lava flows. In it, footage from a drone flight nears the areas the dogs had been previously seen, accompanied by the voice-over and theme music from the Spanish-language adaptation of the 1980s TV series The A-Team.

It then cuts to a spray-painted banner draped on a wall reading, “Be strong La Palma, the dogs are well: A-Team.” It continues on for a minute with still shots of emaciated dogs behind the message, “Cheer up! We are in La Palma.” A final section flashes slogans of encouragement to the island’s volcanically fatigued residents.

So what exactly is the deal? Hard to say at this point, because despite some fairly categoric headlines stating, “A mysterious ‘A Team’ just rescued dogs from a volcano’s lava zone in La Palma,” it’s still unclear whether it did, or who they were.

To be sure, even Aerocámaras says its own recent drone flights preparing for the airlift rescue of the dogs caught video evidence of human footprints in the area, as well as sight of the sheet-like banner.

That has sparked speculation in press reports that The A Team – or El Equipo A, if we’re being local linguistic sticklers – used a drone with a thermal camera of its own to locate a relatively cool section of hardened lava in an effort to preempt the Aerocámaras op. Once they found one (the theory goes), the activists (including Señor T?) purportedly hot-footed it in to snatch up the hounds, then get them out in a final sprint that would have made Usain Bolt proud.

That may theoretically be possible, but it’s still quite a yarn (especially to be buried inside a rather cheesy video that – in this meme-flooded, spoof-happy era – raises as many questions as it answers).

For starters, local authorities have been checking the area on a continuing basis to find ways in – including over lava crusts – thus far to no avail. Meanwhile, there has also been no real visual evidence offered that the dogs are out and safe, apart from the still shots in the video – which could, alas, be any of the countless abused and/or underfed canines on the planet.

And why allow Aerocámaras to continue preparing for an expensive drone airlift rescue if the dogs have indeed already been removed to safety? Is that nice?

Hopefully the video and its implied rescue are in earnest (albeit quirkily so), and the La Palma dogs are indeed safe and sound and fattening up in far cooler climes. Look to DroneDJ to update you on where it all goes from here – when, or if, it does.

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