On Lava-Covered Island, a Last-Ditch Rescue

Drone will swoop in to try to save several dogs trapped in yard on La Palma
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 20, 2021 6:33 AM CDT

It's a precarious mission in Spain's Canary Islands, one that will require "calm and concentration," but the drone is ready. So says Aerocamaras, the company that will try to rescue several dogs trapped in a yard by lava on La Palma, where a volcano eruption that began last month continues. Drones had already been dropping carefully portioned supplies of food and water to the stranded pups, who haven't been able to be airlifted out because there's too much volcanic ash and hot air for helicopters to safely make their way to the yard in the village of Todoque.

Enter one of Aerocamaras' cargo drones, which will use a remote-controlled net to carry the dogs to safety, Reuters reports. Authorities have OKed the emergency rescue mission, which will involve the 110-pound drone swooping in, casting the net over each dog individually, and then carrying it over the lava and to a safe spot about a third of a mile away. "If that's the last option that the dogs have? Then we're going after them," CEO Jaime Pereira tells the news outlet.

There are challenges. The drone, which NPR notes can carry about 50 pounds, will have just four minutes to lure each weakened dog into the net, then another four minutes to fly it out of harm's way before the battery drains. And then there are the dogs themselves, who could be skittish as the drone hovers. "They've been eating very little for weeks," Pereira tells Reuters. "They might come, or become scared of the drone." It's also still not clear just how many dogs there actually are: Reuters has reported three, while local media and Aerocamaras itself says there are four.

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"Our pilots are conducting tests with the emergency teams at this time," Aerocamaras said Tuesday in a tweet. "Due to the complexity of the operation, we need calm and concentration." Despite the risks, it seems to be the dogs' only hope. "Either we take them out or they probably won't be [alive] in a few days," Pereira tells Spanish broadcaster Telecinco, via the Washington Post. More than 6,000 people have been evacuated on La Palma since the Cumbre Vieja volcano erupted about a month ago, with no signs of the eruption stopping anytime soon. (Read more drones stories.)

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