By Kelsey D. Atherton
Drones, as low-cost flying machines, make great rescue tools. They can look and go places people can’t--or at least can’t go safely--and with infrared cameras, they can sometimes see beyond what human eyes can. In Houston, the World Animal Awareness Society plans to use them to track stray dogs, combining a drone's utility as a mapping device with its rescue abilities.
While the world has never been better documented than it is today, maps are static, which make them inaccurate at best for tracking transient populations. Counting the homeless populations in dense cities like San Francisco, even with hundreds of human volunteers on foot, is an incredibly hard undertaking with imperfect results. Mapping, counting, and tracking stray dogs before the advent of drone technology would have been impossible to the point of laughable, especially in such a vast city as Houston.
Now, though, drones provide a labor-saving device for volunteers. For the project, volunteers will enter information about the strays into a smartphone app, noting, for example, if the dog is male, female, a lactating female, a puppy, or unknown. Meanwhile, DJI Inspire drones flying overhead will film dogs, guiding volunteers to strays they might not see and recording on film where the dogs currently are. Between the survey and the drone footage, it’s not yet a living atlas, but it’s close.
However, the project, titled Operation Houston: Stray Dog City,” plans to film not just a stray dog map, but the pilot for a new show. The show started filming on March 20th and will continue filming through the 30th. World Animal Awareness Society is a media nonprofit that's made shows for National Geographic, Animal Planet, and others, though there's no announced broadcast information for Operation Houston yet. As for how the show will be structured, it's billed as a “cross between Pit Bulls & Parolees, Deadliest Catch, and Survivor,” which does not bode terribly well for the pups.
Watch a video of them testing the drone in Detroit below: