The new high flying drones are utilized for all kinds of missions from surveillance to backyard play. But Doug Thron uses them to save the lives of animals. Thron is an aerial cinematographer who has adopted drone photography for his art. But he elevated that art when he discovered infrared drones that could pierce the devastation left by wildfires and hurricanes, revealing wildlife trapped in their wake.
“I'm a pioneer of using infrared drones with spotlights and zoom lenses to rescue animals,” he says.
“I've been somewhat, for lack of a better word, on a crusade, not only to rescue the animals from natural disasters that just keep getting bigger and bigger, but also to get this incredible technology known by the world. Because my hope is that one day these infrared drones rescuing animals will be as popular and as common as say, helicopters are for rescuing people.”
Thron’s exploits are the subject of CuriosityStream’s new series, “Doug to the Rescue.” Thron travels all over the world where disaster strikes, illuminating lost pets, stranded koalas and terrified wildlife.
He first got the idea when a filmmaker united Thron with a man who was using an infrared scope to rescue cats after the Santa Rosa, California, fires.
“We were both chatting about it, and we were like, ‘God, if we could put one of these infrared scopes on a drone it would be unbelievable.’ Fast-forward, about a year later, I was just volunteering with the Sea Shepherd boat out in the Bahamas, and I was using a drone to rescue animals out there. And I found it exceedingly hard to find the animals because of debris piles,” he says.
“Imagine hundreds of houses all being smashed up and debris piles 30 feet tall, and boards and nails and everything. I found it super hard to find the animals. So then I thought back about an infrared scope and thankfully, one had been invented for public use that would potentially work on this drone.
“So I mounted it on the drone, and it worked incredibly well, and from there I started putting spotlights on drones and putting 180 times zoom lens cameras as well. That’s basically how I got started with it was from those events in my past,” he says.
Thron’s first rescue was a dog, a Royal Bahamian Potcake. “He was right in the middle of Hurricane Dorian, a 40-hour-long hurricane with winds up to 180 miles per hour and 30-foot deep water and hundreds of houses smashed; hundreds of people passed away. And he was literally smack dab in the middle of this ... with a snapped leg and banged-up face,” Thron recalls.
He not only saved the dog, he kept him, crowning him’ Duke’. “He was super sentimental to me being the first one,” says Thron.