Drone Finds Lost Pets During California Wildfires

An East Bay drone pilot in California is using his DJI Matrice drone — which uses cutting-edge technology — to rescue animals and reunite them with their owners. The drone has rescued several animals after natural disasters, such as hurricanes in the midwest, wildfires across the West Coast, Australia, and from all over the world.

Douglas Thron has gained the reputation as one of the world’s highly experienced drone pilots, having filmed for TV networks like National Geographic and the Discovery Channel. In 2019, when a Category 5 Hurricane called, “Hurricane Dorian,” made landfall in the Bahamas, it created catastrophic damage to the island. When Thron found out about this, he flew to the Bahamas and assisted in the rescue groups and delivered aid to devastated victims.

Thron put it:

“Through activism, eventually it led me to this point where I’m protecting the individual animals from natural disasters, like hurricanes and fires. It was the most unbelievable thing I’ve seen. While I was filming that destruction, I was seeing animals walking around through the debris but they were hard to find because the debris, piles were about thirty feet tall.”*

When Thron took off for his mission, he attached an infrared camera to his drone to locate the animals before it was too late. Thron’s innovative plan made it possible to guide rescue groups to dozens of animals. 

He tries to share his experience with the following words, “I can’t even begin to describe how wonderful that feeling is when you can bring that little animal back. Of course, that would be the most valuable thing that you could get back.”

Thron also shares — the process — how the rescue takes place:

“The ground is cool and the animal’s body temperature is still warm and you can see the animal glowing on your screen. You can find it on the infrared drone, shine a spotlight on it and tell the rescue crews where its at and they capture it. It worked so well that I decided to continue to do it.”*

Thron shares that he has assisted rescue crews during the Australian wildfires to help locate koalas, a hurricane in Louisiana, wildfires in Northern California and Oregon, as he saved the lives of hundreds of animals. He puts it, “I [have] pretty much been on the road non-stop. I go wherever the animals need me the most.”*

Thron’s state-of-the-art drone is not only able to locate animals, but also detect their physical condition with a zoom lens and bright spotlight. He shares further details of how this is done:

“I can verify if the animal is hurt or not. The last thing you need to do is capture an animal when it doesn’t need to be captured. We can also verify what kind of animals are out there. After fires and disasters in Australia, I was doing population studies and finding where koalas still existed. This is awesome for research and wildlife restoration as well.”*

Thron hopes that in the future, infrared drones will be used on all rescue missions. “The success rate of rescuing an animal is a complete game-changer,” said Thron. He adds, “It still blows me away every time we do it. They are a quick way to deploy new technology to save animals, and wild animals need all the saving they can get. Of course, people’s pets do as well.”*

His plan is to continue rescuing animals from the aftermath of natural disasters with the hope to inspire others to do the same.


What an inspiring story and example to us all!

Perhaps this effort made possible through drones can have far-reaching benefits, such as rescuing endangered species, as well as, our beloved, loyal pets.

Whether we are animal lovers or not, our humanity should appreciate people like Douglas Thron who gives so much of himself to benefit, not only animals specifically, but also humanity as a whole.

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