A Spanish drone operator on Tuesday received permission to try to rescue three emaciated dogs trapped near a volcano in the Canary Islands, by catching them with a remote-controlled net and flying them out over a stream of lava.
The three dogs have been stranded for weeks in an abandoned yard covered with volcanic ash on the island of La Palma.
They have been fed by drones dropping packages of food, but until now no one has been able to figure out how to rescue them. Helicopters are banned from flying to the area because of hot gas that can damage their rotors.
After evaluating the proposed rescue mission, emergency authorities said in a statement they had decided to allow it.
Jaime Pereira, CEO of drone operator Aerocamaras, said he plans to send a 50 kg drone equipped with a wide net to try to trap the dogs, one by one, and fly them to safety, 450 metres away over flowing lava.
"It's the first time an animal is being rescued with a drone and the first time it has to be captured," Pereira told Reuters. "If that's the last option that the dogs have? Then we're going after them."
The operator will have just four minutes to lure a dog to the net, and another four minutes to fly it out.
"What we don't want is to run out of battery when flying over the lava," Pereira said.
Test flights are still being carried out. Ultimately, the mission depends on how the dogs will respond to the machine, Pereira said.
"They've been eating very little for weeks. They might come, or become scared of the drone. We really depend on their reaction."
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