Using a drone to search for lost animals (or even people) and the flying restictions

Let’s say that someone loses their dog and asks a local drone owner to search for it - let’s also say that the drone used to do the searching is under 250g - there are of course laws about where you can fly without permission (not over public land for example) and of course not low enough over private properties to cause a nuisance, invade privacy, etc.

Let’s also say that the lost dog has been in an area where there are private residences, farmer’s fields, a SSSI and also public land, so it could be be in any of those areas.

What is the drone owner supposed to do? Phone the local council (or even a government body if required) and ask to fly over their public land and the SSSI? (and of course not fly low over private properties and people).

I’m curious, hence the question.

Use the same common sense and rules as if you were doing photography there.

The rules don’t change because someone lost a dog.


Or contact your local drone SAR , they are experienced and always looking for volunteers


Thanks, just looked up Drone SAR and it sounds like the kind of thing I’d like to help out with (once I’m skilled enough to fly a drone competently).

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I’ve been flying lost dog SAR flights for the last 3 years. The reaction you get from land owners flying SAR versus recreational flights is completely different. As a recreational pilot you’re immediately considered to be a peeping tom pervert. As a SAR pilot, people generally do everything possible to help. It can also result in some great contacts when you want to fly as a hobbyist.

One other advantage I’ve found is that SAR will “encourage” you to fly in difficult conditions. Many times I’ve said “too windy today” for a recreational flight and bottled it. Flying SAR stretches your abilities and as a result broadens your experience massively.

Go for it - its very rewarding but understand that finding a dog with a drone is very unlikely - your main function is to eliminate large search areas quickly such that ground searchers time and effort can be focussed in/on the best areas. Good luck :+1: :+1: :+1:


or even people

Would that happen? I’ve been in a missing person situation in some woods where a big group of people set out to help and the police called them all back - they were about to fly a helicopter with a heat sensitive camera and we would have just got in the way.

That dog group looks cool tho - may join, thanks!

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Some really good advice there, thanks!

Also good for you for signing up to help - I’ll certainly join up once I feel that my drone flying skills are up to it. I’m not necessarily expecting to find whatever I’m looking for but if it helps to narrow the search area and hopefully find the missing animal (or person) then that would be great.

What type of drone do you use? In fact, what types of drones do you find that most other SAR pilots use?

Myself I have 2 drones - Mavic 2 Zoom which is very useful with the zoom lens. The other is a Mini which I’m planning to replace shortly with either a Mini 3 or an Autel Nano+ - this one will be used for built up areas. Obviously, the best option is a thermal drone but they tend to be a bit pricey but any camera drone can be useful. Due to our damp British weather - I’ve often thought about a waterproof drone - the Swellpro Splash 4 looks very good and if you have very deep pockets - they do a waterproof thermal camera to go with it :thinking: :astonished: :+1: :+1: :+1:
I used to fly Drone SAR for Lost Dogs - Graham Burton’s organisation which is a national group but for the last 2 years I’ve been flying for a local group ( Missing Dogs Team Wales). I now also participate in the ground searches, setting up trail cameras, traps, thermal imagers etc. I’m also about to pick up a chip scanner to allow identification of dogs people have found in order to trace their owners.

As I said - its very rewarding and keeps an old f@rt like me active :+1: :+1: :+1:

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Yes, it does happen and again, mainly to elimiinate large areas. I have been on several searches for missing people where I was flying to cover large areas while others conducted ground searches in woodland wherea downward view wouldn’t penetrate the tree canopy.

The ground search also will find traces of people having been present - items of litter or disturbed vegetation, even discarded clothing. A drone can be quickly sent along potential paths that person may have taken.