With all of the bad press and negative media attention, its always good to have a positive story come about UAV use. This past weekend was supposed to be a quiet Saturday running errands for myself while my business partner Josh and one of our employees Bryan were to work the store. Around mid-morning, John and Lisa Anderson, former owners of Houdini the horse, came into the store and told Bryan a story about the horse now belonged to a young girl named Aspen and that the horse had been missing for two and a half days. Josh called me with the news and we immediately decided to help join the search.
Saturday’s search was focused on a creek bed area about 3/4 of a mile from the ranch. The heat of the day made it difficult to make out some objects versus large rocks that had been baking in the sun all day but we flew until we were convinced that the horse was not in the area. With the wind picking up and not a sign of life anywhere, we decided to call off the search for the day and regroup in the morning. By waiting until the next morning, the ground would be cooler which will make it much easier to recognize the heat signature of animals against the cooler ground.
Sunday morning we arrived at the ranch at 6:30am and spent some time trying to figure out the best places to start the search, likely places he might be, and then prepping the gear. By 7am the copter was in the air. Within just a few minutes of flying, the first potential target was spotted. Flying a DJI Inspire 1 in for close inspection showed that the target was a large deer. Within a few minutes a second target was spotted which also turned out to be a deer.
At this point it was time for a battery swap. During the break, the horse’s caretaker, Stephanie, told us that she kept having a feeling of “up the hill”. While sometimes a little odd, gut instincts can play a huge role in finding something. We sent the copter back up and headed towards the large hill that Lisa had earlier told us was the highest point in Douglas County and offers amazing views. We flew over a herd of six horses and confirmed that there should be six of them there. In panning around a small blip appeared on the screen and we sent the copter to investigate.
The closer the copter got, the clearer it was becoming that the size and shape was right for a horse. From the air, the Inspire 1 saw nothing but scrub brush. Stephanie was already in a full sprint to the location about 1,000′ away using the copter as a location reference. Even though she was only 10′ away from the horse, she couldn’t see it. With guidance over the phone, she was guided into the brush and sure enough, the horse, known as Houdini, was found tangled up in a fence with minor injuries, but alive.
The search platform is a custom built platform designed by Multicopter Warehouse consisting of a DJI Phantom 2, Futaba 8JH Radio, Custom 2-Axis Gimbal, FLIR Tau 2 Infrared Camera, Fatshark 700TVL Camera, two DJI AVL58 Lite FPV transmitters, DJI IOSD Mini, and two FlySight Black Pearl Monitors. If recording of the video is required, then monitors from FeelWorld with built-in recording capabilities can be used.
For more information, please contact Multicopter Warehouse at (303) 552-2300