UK drone rescuers, and sausage, prevent dog’s probable death

drone rescue dog

Things looked bleak indeed for Millie, as rising tides began to close in around the remote mudflats on England’s south coast where the lost dog had ended up. Fortunately for the three-year-old Jack Russell-Whippet mix, drone rescuers were nearby and hard at work – and, critically, armed with a sausage that wound up saving the dog.

The coastal drama – and meaty miracle that averted tragedy – occurred in Hampshire recently when Emma Oakes’s rescue dog, Millie, managed to slip her leash and dash away. Oakes immediately appealed for help to everyone she could find, setting off a protracted effort to find the absconded hound that, by its end, had police, firefighters, and Coast Guard personnel joining the hunt. By happenstance and good fortune, among the spontaneously formed teams were members of the local Denmead Drone Search and Rescue group flying their UAVs – one of which was eventually outfitted with a deli section payload to save the day (and the dog).

Apparently spooked and, says Oakes, always a bit wary of strangers, Millie had managed to get herself far out on a coastal mudflat, and after being spotted had resisted all attempts to reach her. Even the professional public responders came away empty-handed. That standoff took on the hallmarks of a disaster in the making when the tide began swiftly rising and encircling the spot Millie had staked out. 

By that point it had become too dangerous for anybody to attempt reaching the recalcitrant canine nearly 350 yards out as the icy English Channel waters rushed in. Yet doing nothing would almost certainly have condemned Millie to being swamped and drowning. It was then that someone suggested using one of the Denmead Drone Search and Rescue craft to coax the dog into making a dash to safety on her own.

Thus Operation Sausage Salvation was born.

Locals dashed off to procure some of the meat products Millie was said to be fond of. After checking the maximum weight their UAV could handle – and getting an all-clear from aviation authorities for the unorthodox mission – Denmead Drone Search and Rescue pilots hung a sausage from the vehicle as a lure for the dog to follow. 

“It was a crazy idea,” Chris Taylor, head of the Denmead Drone Search and Rescue team told The Guardian. “It was something we had never tried before – the sausages were the last resort, as we couldn’t reach her by kayak or any other means.”

The rescue drone was flown out to Millie’s location, then brought down low enough for the dog to make nose and eye contact with what everyone hoped would prove an irresistible pendant offering.

“Millie really likes food and she’ll eat anything you give her… raw carrots, cucumber – but she much prefers sausages,” Oakes told the paper. “[D]angling a sausage was probably the best thing they could lure her with.”

And coaxed she was, inland over the mudflat, then up on an elevated patch of grass to be reunited with Oakes – though not without a little more drama first. At one juncture the dog tired of the come-and-get-me ruse, and managed to sink her teeth into the carnivore’s delight, nearly crashing the drone being flown to rescue her. Once out of danger, Millie bolted one final time before running to the familiar face of Oakes’s father.

Emma Oakes is reportedly blissful to be reunited with the safe Millie. Denmead Drone Search and Rescue, meanwhile, has another victory to its record, and a new hack for search and rescue missions for lost and endangered pets. 

“We certainly would consider using sausages again,” Taylor said. 

Let’s see a LiDAR sensor pull that trick off.

Photo: Rob Fuller

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