Drone used to find lost dogs spurs a charity with 1,400 rescues to its growing tally

drone lost dogs

When DroneDJ last visited Phil James in 2021, the former police officer had focused his passion for piloting drones into looking for lost dogs in his Nottinghamshire, UK, homebase and reuniting them with their owners – work that by April of that year had resulting in 47 of those happy endings. Cut to March 2023, and James’s aerial efforts have increased that joyful total to nearly 1,400.

Not only has James’s work with his drones relieved the anguish and heartbreak of that enormous group of dog lovers by locating their missing best friends, but in doing so he’s also broadened the network of people who have joined him in that volunteer activity. Since he began using his UAV to locate lost dogs in 2021, so many individuals offered to pitch in that he decided to start a Whatsapp group to permit faster organization deployment of people to search areas.

As that gained speed and size, what initially began as the Phil James Drone Services Lost Dogs page on Facebook has now been transformed to the full-fledged, officially registered charity Drone to Home

The organization now counts seven members on its full-time team, and relies on over a hundred other people who assist in searches – some with UAVs, others on foot – or mount hunts of their own in farther-flung areas of the surrounding East Midlands. 

Read moreEnglish drone pilot flies heart-driven missions reuniting lost dogs with owners

A recent report by the BBC quotes James voicing his ambitions to continue building the charity, and calculating his current total of lost dogs found by drone at around 1,400. 

He also notes his hope to eventually raise enough funds to supply each county in England with a thermal sensor-equipped drone like the DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise he uses. That craft and onboard tech – which he calls critical assets in searches for lost dogs – were bought using donations to his cause, a form of generosity he now wants to extend across the nation.

One of his more recent drone-facilitated reunions involved cockerpoo named a Pudding who’d been missing for six days – a long period for a dog to be lost in the wild until James finally tracked the pet down. Soldiering on through prolonged, often frustrating searches like that one is not the only kind of determination James has relied on in seeing his missions through. 

He once hastily negotiated a waiver to fly his drone in the no-flight zone around the Nottingham City airport when it turned out a lost dog he was after had last been spotted there. The result: the pet – Harvey, by name – was quickly found and returned to his owner as James gave the all-clear to local air traffic controllers.

ReadDog’s tail: Villagers and drone pilots band together in search for lost puppy

Though James and his fellow volunteers are paid through the relief and joy dog owners express when reunited with their lost dogs, he told DroneDJ back in 2021 that his initial motivation for using his drone skills in that special way came from further back in his life.

“My late mother, Jenny, is why I do this,” he said. “She was my original dog whisperer and my inspiration. She adored dogs as much as I do and knew the powerful benefit they bring to people emotionally.”

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