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Drones help reunite lost pets with their owners

Molly Holahan and Rosie
Posted at 5:18 PM, Feb 22, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-23 14:03:24-05

HELENA — Anyone who owns a pet knows they are family, but if a pet goes missing, there are a lot fewer resources available to find them than if a human family member goes missing. But one Helena business is offering something to help out in these situations—drones.

Molly Holahan experienced that first-hand in December. Her dog, Rosie, slipped out of the house while the family was bringing groceries inside.

“It was awful, just crying,” Holahan said of the experience. “We have a 6-year-old daughter, she was so sad, just not knowing if we’d see her again, if we’d have another sighting.”

Holahan and her her family took all the steps they could—they contacted the Lewis and Clark Humane Society and animal control just in case Rosie got turned in, they posted on Facebook, they searched and they followed up on tips.

After a few days with no luck locating Rosie, Holahan said tips were starting to dry up.

“Our hopes had really started to lower by that point,” Holahan said.

That is where Kevin Danz and his drones came in and helped turn the story from something sad to a happy one.

Danz owns and runs iFLYBIGSKY, a multimedia company that specializes in drone photography and video. Danz uses drones to film for a variety of things, from television shows to real estate videos. His scenic shots from high above Helena and Montana rack up views on social media.

Danz also uses his drones for something else—helping people find their pets.

“I have a miniature schnauzer that went missing for a day, and that was one of the worst days,” Danz said. “So I take that pain and I understand what they’re going through.”

Danz has used his drones to search for lost dogs, even a horse, free of charge.

He has drones with thermal imaging and first-person view technology, and they can search a lot more area than a person can cover on foot.

“Some of our drones can do grid mapping,” Danz explained. “We can actually take that data and take thousands of pictures over three hundred acres, and we can send that through some software using AI, and that can actually look for a body or an animal or whatever.”

Those resources in the sky gave the Holahan something important—hope.

“It gave us a lot of relief that someone else was looking and covering such a big area,” Holahan said.

Along with drones, Danz uses his social media following as another resource. He posted Rosie’s information on the iFLYBIGSKY Facebook account, which has a following almost 7-thousand strong. That post helped lead to the tip that got Rosie home.

“It was amazing,” Holahan said of being reunited with Rosie.

Danz said seeing people reunited with his pets is what it’s all about for him.

“I’m just so happy for them to get their family member back,” Danz said.