Meet the mastermind behind the Facebook group called Drone SAR for Lost Dogs UK which has helped locate thousands of lost pets.
Graham Burton from Pontypridd started the group in 2017 after hearing of a lady in Devon who was being asked for £800 per day from a drone pilot to look for her missing dog.
He said: “I thought, there’s no way I’m going to allow that so I contacted a few friends of mine in the Devon area and they went and found the dog and didn’t charge a penny.”
From then the group was born. The 66-year-old retired photographer now uses his time to run the group of more than 1,700 drone pilots and 1,600 ground searchers. The group has more than 41,500 members.
Graham said: “Everyone does everything from the goodness of their heart, nobody earns a penny. I don’t agree with asking people for money from someone’s pain.”
Any donations they receive go towards buying equipment for the group. They now have four thermal imaging drones, three thermal imaging scopes for ground searches and eleven traps and ring doorbell cameras each.
The drones operate via live stream. This means the pilot as well as other members of the team can view the live images and the videos can also be saved to be rewatched later on to make sure a dog was not missed the first time round.
All the drones are especially useful for covering areas humans can not get to like marshlands and over cliffs able to potentially spot lost dogs and put rescue plans in place.
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Graham explained they had seen a rise in pleas for help over the past year thanks to increase in dog thefts.
He said: “We make the dogs too hot to handle. If we make sure the dog is well known, the thief realises he can’t walk the dog in case he is spotted. They usually give it to a vet or let them loose and roam.”
With a bit of luck, someone on Graham’s team will find the missing dog, get the microchip scanned and the dog will be reunited with its owners.
He said: “It’s a heartbreaking situation when dogs are stolen but we do our best to get them back.”
Graham said: “I never thought it would take off – excuse the pun. Since launching, I’ve spoken to people from South Africa, New Zealand, America, Canada, Denmark and more. Hopefully people around the world will set up similar groups where drones can be used to help search for missing dogs.”
It’s not only dogs Graham’s team uses their expertise for. Graham has been asked for help in missing persons cases in coordination with the police.
In June he received both a letter from his local MP Beth Winter, and was awarded a Points of Light award by the Prime Minister.