Nonprofit uses high-tech drones, search and rescue techniques to find lost pets

CLERMONT COUNTY — It’s like AAA for pets.

That’s the idea behind a new nonprofit that uses drones.

AFRS Emergency Drone Services launched the “FidoTracker.”

The organization was started by professional firefighters who fly heavy-duty drones for a living, our news partners at WCPO report.

They are applying the same principles to save human lives, to save lost pets.

It’s sort of like the old adage — a firefighter saving a cat from a tree.

“They’re looking for any hope that they can find their pet,” Todd May, FidoTracker founder said.

In this case, those firefighters are using high-tech tools to scan over half a mile of terrain at any given moment.

“We started picking up dog rescues on the side,” May said. “Human life would pull us away from the dog rescues. So we wanted to find a way to build up the dog rescue portion.”

May started the organization in 2021.

“The drone pilots are normally on scene within 60 minutes,” he said.

May said they have a success rate of around 70 percent.

“Once we locate that heat signature, we zoom in on it to confirm that’s the dog we’re looking for,” he said.

Stephanie Daws experienced this first hand.

Lost in Cesar Creek State Park in late 2022, hours before sub-zero temperatures rolled in.

“I thought that there was no way that they could survive the night,” Dawes.

A plea on Facebook led to Todd stepping in.

“He called me at 3 am and was like, ‘hey, I have some equipment’ ...they were in like this brush thicket, that there’s no way we would have been able to see them without the drone,” Dawes said.

The service costs $8 a month, but the majority of pilots are volunteers.

“Public safety should be free, right? But it’s very difficult because we have a lot of bills as a nonprofit organization,” May said.

It serves Greene County and other areas in southern Ohio, but May hopes to expand.

“Every dog owner is different,” May said. “Some of them it’s a pat on the back and other ones. It’s just tears of joy.”

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