East Bay man uses drones to reunite lost pets with owners following natural disasters

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- An East Bay Infrared drone pilot is using his state-of-the-art drone to rescue animals from the aftermath of natural disasters all over the world.

Douglas Thron is known as one of the world's highly experienced drone pilots, filming for TV networks like National Geographic and Discovery Channel. In 2019, a Category 5 Hurricane known as Hurricane Dorian made landfall in the Bahamas creating catastrophic damage to the island.

Thron flew to the Bahamas to assist rescue groups and deliver aid to hurricane victims.

"Through activism, eventually it led me to this point where I'm protecting the individual animals from natural disasters like hurricanes and fires," said Thron. "It was the most unbelievable thing I've seen. While I was filming that destruction, I was seeing animals walking around through the debris but they were hard to find because the debris piles were about thirty feet tall."

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That's when Thron knew he had to call to action. He attached an infrared camera to his drone to locate the animals before it was too late. After the success of Thron's innovative plan, he was able to guide rescue groups to dozens of animals.

"I can't even begin to describe how wonderful that feeling is when you can bring that little animal back," said Thron. "Of course, that would be the most valuable thing that you could get back."

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The best time to use the infrared drone is at night between 10 p.m. to 4 a.m.

"The ground is cool and the animal's body temperature is still warm and you can see the animal glowing on your screen," said Thron. "You can find it on the infrared drone, shine a spotlight on it and tell the rescue crews where its at and they capture it. It worked so well that I decided to continue to do it."



In a year, Thron has assisted rescue crews during the Australian wildfires to help locate koalas, a hurricane in Louisiana, wildfires in Northern California and Oregon saving the lives of hundreds of animals.

"I pretty much been on the road non-stop," said Thron. "I go wherever the animals need me the most."

Thron's specialized drone is also able to detect the condition of the animal with a zoom lens and bright spotlight. "I can verify if the animal is hurt or not. The last thing you need to do is capture an animal when it doesn't need to be captured," said Thron. "We can also verify what kind of animals are out there. After fires and disasters in Australia, I was doing population studies and finding where koalas still existed. This is awesome for research and wildlife restoration as well."


Thron's hopes in future the infrared drones will be used on all rescue missions.

"The success rate of rescuing an animal is a complete game-changer, said Thron. "It still blows me away every time we do it. They are a quick way to deploy new technology to save animals, and wild animals need all the saving they can get. Of course people's pets do as well."

His plan is to continue to rescue animals from the aftermath of natural disasters and hopes to inspire others.

To donate to Douglas Thron's animal rescue, visit his GoFundMe Page.

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