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Tag: drone

After a basset hound’s disappearance, donations enable town to purchase a drone

The small central Texas town of Hewitt will soon be purchasing its own thermal imaging drone — and they can thank a basset hound named Gus for that.

Gus is the greying basset who went missing last July and stayed on the run nearly 50 days before, with help from a loaned drone, he was tracked down, trapped and returned to his owners.

His disappearance led to a massive search and, once he was found, one of the organizers of Team Gus began a fundraising campaign to get the Hewitt Police Department a drone of its own.

Nikki Pittman presented a check for $6,000 to city officials during Monday night’s council meeting, KWTX reported.

“We desperately needed one here and we kept depending on Dallas, North Dallas to come down here with their thermal drone,” said Pittman. “It was just necessary for Central Texas,” she said.

gusleashes1The money was raised with donations and sales of Team Gus coozies and t-shirts. It will help pay for the Hewitt police and fire department’s purchase of a drone, and licensing and training.

Police Chief Jim Devlin thanked Pittman for her hard work. “While it was a team effort, it was kind of a mission of hers,” he said. “She really stuck to her guns and pushed this thing.”

Devlin said police and fire agencies in New York City and Los Angeles have entire fleets of thermal drones that they use for “all kinds of types of operations. Those can be just as applicable to Hewitt, Texas as anywhere else,” he said.

The drone would be used for locating missing pets and people, and helping firefighting crews by giving them an overhead view of how a fire is spreading.

“It kind of boiled down to – we need one in Central Texas,” Devlin said. Hewitt police are matching the donation.

He believes having their own drone would have cut down on the time it took to catch Gus.

“I’d never thought we’d get outrun by a basset hound, but I also think if we did have the drone we could have launched that, we could have had control with that, I think it could have made a pretty big difference in the amount of time that he was actually on the loose,” said Devlin.

Devlin said the department is researching the purchase, but could have a drone in the air within the year. Firefighters, police officers and animal control staff will be trained how to use the equipment.

Gus disappeared July 24th. Mutts & Mayhem, a Dallas are rescue group, joined the search effort, using its thermal drone for three different overnight surveillance missions. Those helped lead searchers to the area where, in September, they set a trap and caught him.

Dogs herding sheep, as seen from above

Counting imaginary sheep has never worked as a sleep aid for me, but maybe that’s because I always visualized them at ground level.

A bird’s-eye view (or drone’s-camera, in this case) is something entirely different, and quite fantastic. It may not be sleep-inducing, but it is definitely soothing and mesmerizing.

This footage of dogs herding sheep in New Zealand, captured by a camera-equipped drone, is from Tim Whitaker, a filmmaker and aerial photographer in New Zealand. It was taken at a farm in Rangitikei.

As for the choreography, we can thank dog for that.

As the dogs direct them, the massive herd of sheep wash over the green hills like a wave, spreading and narrowing as they make their way to the destination.

Beautiful as this footage is, it raises the unfortunate question: If you’ve got the drones, do you need the dogs?

(The answer — at least until drones start cuddling and looking up at us with big soulful eyes — is yes.)

That’s not to say drones can’t herd dogs. Paul Brennan of Carlow, Ireland, employed a drone nicknamed “Shep” a couple of years ago to herd sheep from one field to another, capturing the process as Shep saw it from the air.

Unlike the video at the top of this post, it’s not nearly as peaceful and soul-enriching — but maybe that’s just the fast-motion pace and the Benny Hill music.

When drones deliver will dogs get to growling? Amazon wants to know

drone

Reports surfaced this week that Amazon, as it continues to develop its top secret project to someday deliver packages by drones, has obtained a “simulated dog” so they can assess what obstacles dogs might pose to drones, and how to avoid them.

This is a real story. Honest.

It sounds a little like something out of an episode of Robot Wars, but the dangers dogs could pose to drones, and, more important, drones could pose to dogs, are well worth considering if this whole drone delivery idea is going to come to pass.

(Which I’d prefer it didn’t.)

Amazon doesn’t care what I think, though, and it is proceeding very secretly on the drone project, and looking at how to equip drones with enough artificial intelligence (beyond GPS) for them to cope with what postal carriers have long been coping with — everything from dogs to clotheslines.

Ironically, the Amazon simulated dog story came out same day the Postal Service released its latest dog bite figures, which are undergoing the largest increase in three decades.

Dog attacks on postal workers rose last year to 6,755, up 206 from the previous year — but the increase comes amid double-digit increases in the post office’s package business. Postal carriers are visiting more homes more frequently and at all times of day, often burdened with packages, thanks to agreements the Postal Service struck with Amazon in 2013 and 2014.

In other words, the more Internet shopping we all do, the greater burden we put on postal carriers, thereby increasing the chances for them to be victims of dog bites.

Unless of course packages are being delivered by drones, as Amazon — clearly the biggest catalyst in online shopping’s growth — proposes to do.

If there’s a conspiracy theory that might apply to all this, please feel free to apply it. Because I can’t come up with one.

According to the International Business Times, Amazon is using the simulated dogs as it conducts tests with drones in the UK.

It is not known how many simulated dogs there are in Amazon’s pack or what, if any, behaviors they’ve been programmed to imitate — barking, biting, tail-wagging?

410I1FkDAkLNor is it known whether Amazon created them, procured them from a contractor, or ordered them from themselves.

Amazon has been testing delivery drones since 2015. In July 2016 it signed a partnership with the UK government to explore the safe use of UAV’s (unmanned aerial vehicles) to make deliveries in rural and suburban areas.

There are plenty of rough spots still to be figured out, most of them dealing with the drone’s use of air space.

But, once it comes time for a drone to land, one of the major concerns is going to be dogs. The drones will deliver packages, guided by GPS, and leave them on a special welcome mat the customer has placed on a front porch or a back patio.

Some dogs, I suspect, will cower in fear when a drone appears overhead; maybe a few will take them in stride, but many will see them as humming and hovering monsters, intent on trying to invade their territory.

(Which, to me, is a pretty accurate description.)

A drone’s blades can inflict serious damage, and ingesting a drone’s parts could also be a hazard. And Amazon is not unaware of the potential liabilities.

So now it’s researching how to give drones some artificial intelligence — to equip them with the ability to protect themselves when they sense a danger to themselves or others.

Given it’s a dog friendly company, it’s not likely Amazon will arm drones to spray cayenne pepper when a dog approaches.

Dropping a couple of treats — charming as that would be, and though it works well for postal carriers — probably wouldn’t work, either.

More likely, the drones will be taught to just abort their landing and return to their home base if a dog’s presence is sensed.

That could ruin many a “same day delivery,” but, unless you are ordering insulin, is that really so important?

The best solution is pretty obvious. Drop the fanciful and futuristic pipe dream. Keep the skies clear. Let humans make the deliveries.

I’ll gladly wait another day, or two, or three, for my package in exchange for the benefits that would offer — jobs, peace and quiet, and safer dogs and children among them.

(Photos: At top, an Amazon delivery drone, courtesy of Amazon.com; lower, the Genibo SD Robotic Dog, available from Amazon)

Would you let a drone walk your dog?

We report often on dog-related technology here on ohmidog! — both that which is budding and that which has found its way to the marketplace — and a good 90 percent of the time we have nothing positive to say about it.

Including this time.

A drone that walks your dog? No. No. And no.

This is just one man’s experiment, but let’s hope it doesn’t catch on.

Here’s the thing about dog-centered technology: It’s usually not centered on dogs at all.

Instead, it is aimed at making the lives of dog owners easier. Generally, it is something that relieves dog owners of responsibility, allowing them to both spend less time with their dog and feel less guilty about it.

Like machines that, on a programmed schedule or through remote operation, can dispense a treat to your dog while you’re away.

Or a machine that will play fetch with your dog while you’re away, or just too tired to go to all that effort.

And all those other contraptions, apps and gizmos that allow you to cut down on face to face time with your dog, thereby eroding the one thing that counts — the bond between the two of you.

Those devices aren’t really making it any easier for you to live your life. Your dog, on the other hand, is.

The video above shows Lucy, a golden retriever from Connecticut, being walked by a drone.

Jeff Myers, the mind behind this video, said he wanted to show it could be done — always a dangerous reason to do something, especially when it’s the sole reason.

Myers lives in New York City, and he borrowed his mother’s dog for the experiment, in which dog is leashed to drone and drone is controlled by an app.

It’s just a concept Myers says.

So too, at one point, was dog cloning. Those concepts — good or bad — have a way of turning into business enterprises once the realization that there could be profits kicks in.

This NPR report about the dog walking drone and other technological developments for dogs, concluded, “The future is here and it’s pretty darn cute.”

Pretty darn cute?

Yeah, right up there with using your car to walk your dog:

Police turn to eagles to bring down drones

I’m not sure if it’s the technophobe in me or the nature-lover in me, but something about this video makes me smile inside.

Police in the Netherlands, concerned about the security threat posed by unmanned aerial drones, have enlisted eagles to bring them down.

The Dutch National Police Force announced that they’ve partnered with Danish company, Guard from Above, to train the birds, according to Global News.

Just as with police dogs, there’s a potential that law enforcement might misuse its new-found ally. There are probably questions that could be raised from an animal rights perspective, as well. On top of that, I’d hate to think that eagles were somehow being used to abridge free speech.

But police officials emphasized the eagles won’t be going after law-abiding drones, just those that are posing a security threat.

“There are situations in which drones are not allowed to fly. This has almost always to do with security,” Mark Wiebe, innovation manager of the National Police, said in a press release. (No need to click that link unless you speak Dutch.)

The video above is from a demonstration National Police put on last Friday, during which one of the trained birds successfully tracked and brought down a standard commercial drone in mid-air.

It’s almost as if the regal birds are taking back the sky, which, in our view, was their’s to begin with.

Yes, I’m definitely seeing too much symbolism in it, but watching still makes me say, “Go Eagles!”