SUPERIOR, Colo. — It has been more than two weeks since the Marshall Fire and many pet owners are holding out hope that they can be reunited with their loved animals.
Dozens of pins dot a public online map that show where homeowners say they are still missing their pets.
Douglas Thron, a drone operator with an organization called the Animal Survival and Safety Emergency Response Team (ASSERT), has reason to hope.
He is going to those locations on the map, and carefully surveying each property from the sky.
Using infrared technology, his aircraft can find heat signatures missed by the naked eye, even at night.
"I take the drone, I put the infrared camera on it and the spotlight and the zoom lens. I fly over. I find the heat signature of the animal," Thron said. "We're able, with the GPS coordinates, to go and either hand capture the animal, or else set up a live trap."
Thron has spent thousands of hours seeking out animals with infrared drones. His passion project has taken him around the globe to search for koalas in Australia, hyenas in Africa, and house pets across America. He is even the star of an upcoming documentary series called "Doug to the Rescue," highlighting the technology used in Superior.
"Being able to return the animals back to the owner gives them a sign of hope — that no, not all is lost," Thron said. "Just being able to rescue the animals themselves and see the animals be saved is rewarding. "
Though Thron built the drone himself, the technology is not new. It is the same technology used by police departments to track suspects on the run. But Thron said he is the first to use it for rescue of pets after a disaster.
"It's actually like using a drone and using infrared for the better betterment of humanity," said Thron. "It's nice to see the technology being used for good to help save a lot of endangered animals and people's lost pets."