Growing East Midlands charity Drone to Home reunites thousands of missing dogs with owners
In four years, the UK’s first dedicated drone charity which searches for dogs has reunited nearly 2,000 pets with their owners.
Drone to Home, based in the East Midlands, was founded by Phil James who at first, self-funded the work to help search for dogs.
As the demand grew, Drone to Home became a registered charity.
“I was a hobbyist drone flyer and I used to love taking photos from the air,” said Phil.
He added: “When a dog went missing in Calverton, I got asked to go and help and with the drone I found the dog.
“From there, I got another call and just got really good at it, and it’s grown into what it is today.”
Since the charity was founded, it has helped to reunite 1,994 missing dogs with their owners and on average receives 40 calls a day.
Phil added: “We’ve even got a virtual call centre now because of the amount of calls we get.
“Even though we are a small team based in the East Midlands, we can help people over the phone with advice and education.
“We’ve got about 10 people who answer the telephones and the majority of those people are retired.
“They are animal lovers and they want to get involved and help. It works really well.”
There is also a dedicated drone team which has expertise in operating the devices.
All volunteers and staff who work for the charity are provided with training so they “know what to look for”.
Phil said: “What people also don’t understand is dogs can go feral within minutes of going missing.
“One of the hardest jobs is explaining to owners if their dog has gone feral, it won’t recognise them when they first see them.”
This means dogs go into survival mode, where they go back to their survival instincts and focus on getting food, water and defending themselves.
As a result, sometimes when they are reunited with their owners they do not remember them and volunteers from Drone to Home have to show the owner how they can “bring their pet back”.
The longest it has taken for a pet to get back to its “domestic way” was one hour and 35 minutes, and the shortest was 10 minutes.
Phil said: “In this job, you need a never give up attitude. We’ve known dogs go missing for six weeks and we’ve still found them.
“You do need a lot of patience and you need to be dynamic in your thinking because things change really quickly with dogs, so you need time to adapt to that.”
Drone to Home has 15 business sponsors and three weeks ago Coptrz - leading commercial drone experts - became involved. The company donated nine drones to the charity.
Looking to the future, Phil hopes that Drone to Home can continue to expand.
He said: “The vision is to have a drone operator vehicle in every county but obviously that comes down to funding.
“We won’t run before we can walk, we’re doing things properly.
“I don’t want to lose the quality. You can go too big too soon and it becomes about quantity, then you lose the empathy and the personal touch, which we don’t want.”