This Drone Has Reunited Over 1,000 Dogs With Their Owners

Updated: Jan. 09, 2024

With the help of thermal images on drones, this U.K. charity has rescued over 1,400 lost dogs.

A former police officer has become a real-life hero for dog owners in the United Kingdom. Phil James from Woodborough in Nottinghamshire took his hobby of flying drones and turned it into a rescue operation to help reunite lost dogs with their owners. James started Drone to Home in 2020, and now he and the team have successfully rescued over 1,400 dogs, according to a BBC interview.

What’s Drone to Home?

When a pet goes missing, most owners are left to organize their own search and rescue mission and rely on the kindness of strangers. But for those near Drone to Home, one call can make a world of difference. The charity rescue operation works to locate lost dogs and return them back to their worried owners. With the help of drones, the team at Drone to Home can cover significant ground and search in areas that would take rescuers on foot much longer to scan.

James wrote on the Drone to Home webpage, “At the start, it was just me and my drone searching areas that the owners had told me the dog had been last sighted. As I began finding more and more missing dogs, word soon spread that my skills and experience in reuniting missing dogs was a much-needed peace of mind for thousands of people in the community.”

The Drone to Home operation has grown since then to receive hundreds of calls each year from owners of dogs that have gone missing. On average, the team searches for and reunites about 43 dogs each month.

How does Drone to Home find dogs?

Searching for a lost dog can be tricky business. Not only can dogs often outrun us humans, but they can also find their way into inaccessible areas like dense forests or brush. This can make finding and retrieving a lost animal seem impossible. But thanks to the team at Drone to Home in the East Midlands area of England, these barriers are less of an issue.

Using thermal drones, James and other drone pilots can cover serious ground in a short amount of time. The thermal camera works to detect warm areas, so a field that would take searchers on foot hours to cover can be searched in minutes.

Drone to Home also uses their networking skills to help alert the community to be on the lookout for a lost dog. “As 2021 went by it became clear I required help, so I created a Whatsapp group where volunteers could join and help me if they could spare the time. Drone To Home now has hundreds of volunteers who help share content on social media and assist on-ground searchers,” James said on the charity’s website.

In January, the team located a lost dog in a field thanks to thermal imaging on the drone, but found the dog was too skittish to approach, even running from its owner. After an agonizing week of searching, Monty was eventually lured to safety thanks to a ham sandwich he found irresistible.

Drone to Home’s “Found Dog Gallery” is full of other smiling dogs like Monty that are happy to be home and back in the arms of their owners.