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Switzerland: Drones alongside dogs for rescue missions

Ⓒ AFP – Fabrice COFFRINI – | Presentation by the Swiss organization Redog of the use of drones alongside dogs for rescue missions in Zurich, Switzerland, August 23, 2017

“An eye in the air and a nose on the ground”: the Redog organization, which takes care of mountain rescue dogs, drew on Wednesday a positive assessment of the use of drones to facilitate relief missions.

Cooperation between the animal and the machine not only makes it possible to gauge wider areas, especially in hard-to-reach areas, but also reduces the cost of missions.

“We can send drones to dangerous areas, at the foot of cliffs, while the dogs go to do their research in the forest,” explained Romaine Kuonen, president of the association, during a Simulation in the Zurich countryside, near the airport.

Ⓒ AFP – Fabrice COFFRINI – | Presentation by the Swiss organization Redog of the use of drones alongside dogs for rescue missions in Zurich, Switzerland, August 23, 2017

“It allows us to have an eye in the air and a nose on the ground,” she enthused.

This voluntary association, with some 500 dog handlers, joined forces with the Swiss federation of civilian drones last autumn.

“The project was born after a case in the Alps in Lauterbrunnen, where drone experts had united to find a speed-flyer that was missing,” explained Dominique Peter, one of the members of the federation.

Redog then made contact with the group, and dogs and drones learned to work together, the first mission starting only a few days later, to find a person in the Valais region.

The drones are confronted with a certain mistrust, nevertheless acknowledged this impassioned pilot.

“When I’m on a mission, people see my uniform that I’m on a search operation,” said Peter, pointing out that hikers are sometimes more reluctant when piloting small drones in a private capacity .

The rescue teams are working with drones from the Chinese company DJI, the world leader in civilian drones, including the Matrix 600, a high-end model used in Hollywood for action scenes.

Ⓒ AFP – Fabrice COFFRINI – | The Swiss organization Redog, which deals with rescue dogs, especially in the mountains, has taken a positive view of the use of drones for a year to facilitate relief missions

It allows to install a thermal camera as well as a zoom magnifying up to 30 times the image, to adapt the camera according to the type of operation.

The drones used cost between 1,600 to 30,000 euros, but make it possible to limit the use of helicopters, much more expensive, pointed the president of Redog, without giving any figures on the price of the missions.

The drones do not sign the end of missions with dogs.

“A dog remains the best tool to search for a missing person,” Peter said, considering that an artificial nose comparable to that of a dog was not yet available.

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