Eric Brasseur Home    |    Links    |    Contact    |   

Drone dancing with dogs

About a third of dogs are interested by little quadcopters. They will joyfully run after the drone, ambush and jump to try and catch it, like they would run after a frisbee or a tennis ball. Some dogs are fascinated and it will become their favorite game. Breeds of dogs that seem to hook up are Pitt Bull, American Staff, Jack Russel, Border Collie, Rottweiler, Husky and Yorkshire. Other dogs seem to be impervious, even some bird hunting breeds.

Surprisingly, no dog has ever attempted to destroy my drone. Once they catch the drone in flight, they will gently release it on the ground. I do have to bend a propeller back in shape or replace a part once in a while and there are some slight teeth markings in the shell but nothing bad. The worst that has ever happened was a little Yorkshire dog that tended to tramp the drone on the ground to get it to take off again.

About any flight trajectory or behavior of the drone will be of interest. Some dogs like to chase the drone, others like to stay put and have the drone come towards them and try to escape capture once the dog jumps to try and catch it. Some dogs like to just see the drone flying. One way to stimulate the hunter instinct is to have the drone land on the ground, then take off full speed when the dog arrives. To keep the dog running, have the drone fly large circles.

Some dogs seem to experience an aesthetic emotion. One night I was flying with bright color LEDs at the end of the arms of the drone. An American Staff dog that was a few tens of meters away and on a leash howled slowly during every flight. Another night, a homeless person was present and slowly repeated “it's beautiful, it's beautiful !” The next day he came to talk to me and thank me, because it had been such a marvelous experience. To me, both the dog and that person had experienced about the same emotion. The same way, one of the most enthusiastic dogs that I play with, will stop chasing the drone near the end of the flight and start making joyful turning jumps under the drone that resemble a dance trance.

Every dog understands that I'm the puppeteer of the quadcopter yet they may also lend a personality to the drone itself. One dog seemed to consider me as the person who prevents it from flying once the game is over. She would desperately try to open the backpack where I had tidy it up. Another dog would growl with a tone of reproach at the drone when I made it hover over thorny bushes, out of reach. To her it was not playing by the rules.

There can be problems. Some dogs are so fond of drone dancing that they may cross a road unexpectedly when they see me. On the bright side, their owners make use of that; to teach the dog some more discipline. Another problem is some dogs mistaking any drone for something fun. One of them had a slight wound near the mouth after trying to catch a “real” drone. The fascination of some dogs will for example make some owners prefer that I don't fly when other dogs are around, to favor the social interaction of their dogs. There is also a risk for exhaustion. In the heat of summer, owners often allow only "one battery", which makes for a flight of about 5 minutes, while in wintertime a credit of up to "four batteries" may be allowed.

The little drone that I use to play with dogs is an Eachine H8 Mini, also named JJRC H8 Mini. A white one. Make sure to get a Mode 2 remote. It's almost impossible for its little propellers to cause a wound but they can hurt a little. Dogs who are addict don't bother for the slight pinching when they catch the quadcopter. Yet dogs who just start to become interested and attempt a first catch, can be pushed back. Maybe best avoid to allow the dog to catch the drone, till the game is understood. In order to train to control a little quadcopter, maybe best begin with an indoor model like an Eachine E010, Eachine E011 or JJRC H36 Mini (Mode 2 remote).

Eric Brasseur  -  August 13 2019