‘Pet Detective’ Uses Drone-Based Thermal Imaging to Find Lost Dogs

Yorkshire, England-based Erica Hart is a self-described “pet detective” who uses an infrared camera attached to her drone to help find lost dogs. To date, she’s found and returned 330 pets to their owners.

As reported by SWNS, Hart received her first drone as a gift from her father back in 2018 and, after hearing about a local dog missing in her area, took to the skies to see if she could help find it. She did, and word spread of her kind deed. A few days later, she heard another dog went missing and she set out to find it — she was again successful.

“Then, because people said I have found these dogs, it snowballed from there – I get called out every day,” she says.

Over the last several years, Hart has helped find 330 lost dogs with her drone and continues to search every day, volunteering her time to help locate lost pooches.

“Since I started out, I have found 330 dogs… I don’t just help find dogs though,” she adds. “I have found, cats, emus, cows and helped mountain rescue locate missing people. It is in my nature to help out.”

Hart says that if a dog goes missing in a field, she can usually find it within a day. However, her longest rescue operation took 12 days — she says it was a cockapoo — as the amount of ground a pet can cover and where it hides adds levels of complication. If it gets lost and scared, groups of people shouting its name and looking for it can force it into “fight or flight mode,” which can make it hard to locate even with her drone.

“I do everything for the love of dogs. Imagine not seeing your mum for 10 years and then seeing her all of a sudden — it is that feeling. It is like winning the lottery when I find a dog.”

Hart says that she has even found dogs that owners aren’t interested in taking back. In those cases, she adopts them herself.

“This is all very personal for me, I am not a people person but give me a dog any day of the week,” she says.

Hart currently uses an enterprise-level DJI drone (a huge step up over her DJI Phantom from 2018) but wants to upgrade to an Autel Evo 4n as she says it has both a night vision and thermal camera so she can be better equipped to help find pets at night.