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Roberts dog breeder uses thermal drone to help find lost dog

Posted at 4:46 PM, Nov 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-17 14:00:12-05

ROBERTS - A Roberts dog breeder is celebrating her good fortune after using a thermal drone to help find her lost dog.

The lost dog was a token female Golden Retriever named Winter. She's worth thousands to the operation but for owner Lyla Morrell, she's also a big part of the family.

"I love the dogs, they're very important to me," Morrell said. "She's the only female we have, so I was kind of putting all my eggs in one basket with her."

Morrell said their property, which is 20 acres, is the perfect place to breed dogs. But that vast space and the 1,500 acres surrounding it became a problem just a few weeks ago when Winter ran away.

"She got startled and took off," Morrell said. "Like I said, it's just a vast area and they could be gone. I was panicking because I could hear coyotes. I felt sick to my stomach."

For three days, Morrell did what she could to find Winter. They walked and drove the acres of property, calling her name and shaking her dog food. All of their efforts proved unsuccessful.

But then Morrell's friend came up with an idea to reach out to a man who owns a thermal drone in Idaho.

"She was telling me all these things I should try and then she mentioned thermal drone and my ears perked up," Morrell said. "So, I looked him up and called him immediately and he said sure, no problem."

Five hours after that phone call, 26-year-old Alex McElligott arrived at Morrell's doorstep with his technology in hand. In less than two hours, Winter had been found.

"There's going to be situations where there isn't planning, where someone calls you and says, 'Here's the situation. What can you do for me?'" McElligott said. "If this is something I want to do as a career, and it is, then I have to be ready to help at all times."

McElligott's technology uses thermal cameras to detect heat energy, often pinpointing signs of life in vast, open spaces. He said Winter's rescue was relatively easy.

"On the way back, before bringing the drone down to change batteries, I was like, let me peak over where her other dogs were looking," McElligott said. "I zoomed in and used the spotlight and sure enough. There was Winter."

Morrell said the moment she heard her dog had been found was emotional.

"It was overwhelming and awesome because I would never want to lose a dog that way," Morrell said. "It was just a very happy ending. This dog is special to me."

And McElligott said he hopes to continue helping as many people as he can. His goal is to make a business with his drone locating service.

"It's something that I think everyone needs in some aspect," McElligott said. "I'm that smack in the middle that makes that technology and those resources available to everyone else."