Frequently Asked Questions About Our Thermal Drone

Here are the basic what, when, where, why, how and who questions about our drone.

WHAT: Our drone is a DJI Mavic Enterprise 3T thermal imaging drone. It has 3 cameras; a wide-angle view, a 56X zoom camera and camera that reads infrared heat. The drone is just one tool in our toolbox in addition to traps, trail cams and signs.  Just as with any toolbox, not one tool does everything. 

WHEN: As with our other tools, there are circumstances that make a drone search more favorable such as recent sightings. The larger the pet, the easier it is to see its heat signature. Although we will fly in heavily urban areas, tools such as signs are much more effective. The drone works best when the temperature of the background is cool, so that the pet’s heat is more visible. Cold weather is best. As the drone is an aircraft, we have to be aware of winds at higher altitudes, although our drone can handle winds close to 26 mph. Our drone is full of complex electronics and is not waterproof, so weather is a factor. Lastly, because our pilot is a volunteer and unpaid, our pilot may have other obligations or be otherwise unavailable. 

WHERE: Because the drone shares the skies with aircraft that carry people, we must abide by a series of FAA regulations that ensure the safety of people in aircraft as well as people on the ground. Omaha has two major airports (Eppley and Offutt AFB) and several smaller ones. Flying in northeast Omaha and southeast Omaha requires FAA approvals. However, areas within mile or so of those two large airports is off-limits due to the risk of collisions. Please note that we will not fly the drone in areas that we deem to be unsafe. There are many areas that are off-limits to drones, such as state/federal parks and recreation areas. Omaha requires the purchase of a permit to fly in City Parks. Keep in mind that a thermal drone cannot see into structures or through a thick canopy of trees.  Although people worry about invasion of privacy, not much detail can be seen at elevation. We try to never hover over a property to reduce those privacy concerns. 

WHY: A drone has the ability to scan a wide area. However, when scanning a wide area, details on the ground are difficult to see. The thermal camera is able to detect variations in temperature and movement. Once such a temperature variation is noted, the zoom camera is used to determine the nature of the sighting. 

HOW: A drone search is most effective when the pilot can concentrate on flying the drone while another person studies the monitor in real-time. The safest mission also includes a 3rd person to monitor the skies for approaching aircraft. When a heat signature is noticed, the drone camera will zoom in to try to identify the target. The drone stays at least 150-200 feet above, making the drone silent to those on the ground. If a pet is spotted, the GPS coordinates are captured. Those coordinates are sent to the owner and/or ground team to try to approach the pet. Lost pets are often terrified, even of their owner, so this requires some basic understanding of how to approach the pet without causing it to bolt in fear, making the situation even worse.

WHO: Our drone pilot has the FAA Part 107 remote pilot certificate. He and the drone carry appropriate levels of insurance for liability, medical, property damage, collision and other losses.