Aerial Animal Caretakers - The Animal Stewards of Aerial Work Aviation

So often, we forget about the domestic animals that play an important part in our daily lives. With that, it's critical that humans understand and balance these animals' needs with those of people, i.e., Domestic Animal Husbandry. If you were not aware, Aerial Work (AW) aviation is a unique player in this effort of managing and caring for the animals that keep mankind sustained or bring a bit of happiness to our everyday lives.

Patrick Ryan  |  24th November 2022
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Patrick Ryan
Patrick Ryan

Patrick Ryan brings over 30 years of experience as a Senior Consultant helping government and business...

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Aerial Animal Caretakers - The Animal Stewards of Aerial Work Aviation


As the world's population grows and living standards rise, so does the demand for animals that sustain us or provide us comfort, i.e., domestic animals. To ensure that this demand is appropriately managed, there are many types of professions across a wide variety of industry sectors that solely focus on these types of animals. 

When it comes to animal managers around the globe overseeing these demands, the power of aviation is an important means of giving them the high ground or ability to achieve. The AW aviation sector is working hard to provide aerial domestic animal husbandry services while taking direct responsibility to help sustain the animals we depend on by delivering specialized aviation capabilities to government agencies, charities, and farming organizations. 

To better understand what this AW aviation sector actually does, we need to focus on domestic animal management and the types of services this aviation sector provides. Additionally, like other AW aviation sectors, we need to focus on the specific services and the different types of aircraft they employ or, better yet, "what works best" for the animal management community to get the right outcomes. 

Domestic Animal Husbandry 

For this article, domestic animal husbandry relates to farm animals (Animal Husbandry) and pets (Pet Husbandry). Domestic animal husbandry is the science or practice concerned with caring for, producing, and breeding domestic animals. 

In its simplest form, domestic animal husbandry manages the interaction between farm animals, pets, and people to achieve a specific outcome. It tries to balance the needs of domestic animals and the environment with the needs and wants of people using the best available science and practices. Domestic animal husbandry includes veterinarian, ranching, farming, and many other disciplines. 

As mentioned before, domestic animal husbandry has become a science today. Even so, its purpose remains basically the same, i.e., to ensure the prudent use and management of domestic animals, i.e., maintaining a healthy relationship between the needs of humans and the environment. Given the right circumstances and effort, domestic animals that we call farm animals and pets can indefinitely be there for our physical and personal needs. The bottom line is that domestic husbandry is the wise and caring use of natural resources without wasting them. 

Regarding farm animals and pets concerning the science or practice of husbandry, farm animals and pets are approached differently. The difference is: 

Animal Husbandry - Animal husbandry is considered a branch of agriculture concerned with domestic animals raised for meat, fiber, milk, or other products. It includes day-to-day care, selective breeding, and the raising of livestock. 

Pet Husbandry - Pet husbandry is defined as the day-to-day care of companion animals. This includes lifestyle, such as living environment (e.g., indoor vs. outdoor, multi-pet household) and activity (e.g., passive vs. active), diet choice and practices (e.g., what is fed and how), and veterinary care, including preventive health and treatments.

Aerial Animal Caretakers 

So, what does this distinctive Aerial Work sector do to support animal husbandry? From an obvious functionality and important perspective, AW aviation provides the means to mitigate "time & space" and expense associated with managing large livestock groups or rescuing abused pets from distant locations. However, the particular types of services and flight operations regularly requested and conducted by aerial animal caretakers are different from other Aerial Work sectors but with the intent to support the animal husbandry community.

Types of Services 

Even though aerial animal caretaking services are adaptable to many animal husbandry operations, the primary or technical services provided to animal husbandry government organizations, farmers, ranchers, and animal welfare charity groups include: 

Assessment – Assessment activities deliver actual or near real-time situational information and monitoring via remote sensors or the human eye of livestock for farmers, ranchers, and producers as needed, e.g., help monitor, assess risk, and decision-making. 

Prevention – Prevention provides better capabilities, i.e., airpower, for an organization to help reduce the likelihood of harmful activity associated with particular living conditions and animals. 

Mediation – Mediation is people's purposeful involvement in changing domestic animals living conditions to improve animal health on the farm or in the home, bringing economic benefits through maximized production or stability in their environments. 

Transportation – Transportation moves humans and animals, plus equipment and technology associated with specialized domestic animal care, e.g., herding and placing radio & satellite collars. To break this down further and as an example, aerial animal caretakers routinely provide these types of focused services: 

• Rangeland Assessments 

• Herd or livestock surveying 

• Drive Netting 

• Feral Animal and Predator Eradication 

• Property Surveying 

• And many more….

Types of Flight Operations 

Animal caretaker services undertake various specialized tasks. This could include aerial counts, medical assistance in remote areas, herding, corralling, and supporting animal 

welfare projects. 

To give you a better perspective of the different types of operations the Aerial Work aviation "Aerial Animal Caretaker" sector provides, here are just a few particular unique & essential services you can see taking place today: 

Animal Rescue Flights – Animal rescue flights are specific operations focused on transporting domestic animals out of harmful situations or conditions. In the past few decades, this type of service has expanded tenfold when it comes to rescuing domestic pets from harm's way. 

Many of these operations are conducted by charity groups using private aircraft, i.e., volunteer pilots, planners, cabin crew, drivers, and ground handlers. Their mission is to save these animals, which would otherwise have been put to death by euthanasia, and deliver them to new families or adoption centers. 

Aerial Veterinarian Services – Like your neighborhood veterinarian, some veterinarians provide house calls via an airplane. Primarily for remote locations of the world, e.g., the outback of Australia, the Midwest of the US, or island regions, they provide standard medical treatment for both large and small animals. 

Aerial veterinarian service providers, by using mobile medical equipment & instruments, can help ranchers and pet owners with radiography, ultrasonography, dentistry, cattle pregnancy testing, herd health assessment, and many more procedures. 

Livestock Management - When managing livestock, Aerial Work aircraft help herd or mustard cattle, identify sick or lost animals, deter livestock predators, and monitor vegetation and water supply conditions. Nimble aircraft like rotary-wing platforms provide the perfect level of versatility to operate at a low level and at rapid variable speeds that traditional cowboy ranching methods cannot. 

To highlight the benefits of employing aircraft in herding or mustard livestock, experienced agriculture pilots can locate a herd and guide them to the corral within an hour. In contrast, horseback cowboys or ground vehicles would take weeks to achieve the same result. 

The Good Shepherds 

Again, with an ever-growing human population and increasing living standards, the demanding job of animal husbandry primarily lies with government bodies, charities, ranchers, and farmers to ensure domestic animals are sustained or provide us companionship. 

When it comes to the flyers that support such husbandry groups, the mainstream stakeholders are non-profit groups, private aviation firms, or small animal medical providers hired to deliver specific aerial services. Here are three Aerial Work organizations that genuinely specialize in or focus on aerial animal caretaking operations: 

The Flying Vet

The Flying Vet TM was established to provide mobile veterinary services to remote farming and ranching communities across New South Wales (NSW) Far West, Australia. The Flying Vet is based near White Cliffs NSW and operates a single Piper PA-28R-200 Cherokee Arrow. 

Pilots To The Rescue

Pilots To The Rescue (PTTR) is a non-profit aviation charity organization located at Essex County Airport in New Jersey. PTTR's primary mission is to transport animals & people at risk. PTTR organizes a network of trained volunteer pilots and ground volunteers to rescue dogs & cats from overcrowded facilities and transport them halfway across the country to a wanting family. Many of their pilots freely provide their time, skills, and aircraft to support PTTR's charitable mission. 

Alpine Aviation LLC 

Alpine Aviation LLC, located at Mountain Home Airport in Idaho, is a commercial helicopter service provider. Alpine Aviation offers various helicopter services geared explicitly toward livestock management. Some of these services include: 

• Herding 

• Locating lost livestock 

• Livestock survey 

• Predator control 

• Property survey 

Aircraft & Kit Composition 

The make-up of aircraft & kits used in aerial animal caretaking varies from manned and unmanned aircraft. However, today's main aircraft categories are still fixedwing and rotary-wing manned aircraft. 

Manned Aircraft

The principal planes or types in the manned aircraft area are either single or twin-engine General Aviation (GA) fixed-wing platforms. In the task of animal rescue and veterinarian services, the most common aircraft used are: 

• Cirrus Aircraft – SR20, SR22 

• Textron Aviation – C-172 Skyhawk, C-182 Skylane 

• Piper Aircraft Inc – PA-28-236 Dakota, PA-28R-200 Cherokee Arrow 

In the task of livestock management, i.e., herding, cattle monitoring, etc., the primary aircraft used are helicopters. Because of helicopters' low and slow maneuverability, they are ideally suited and cost-effective for this kind of work. The most common types of helicopters employed in this field are: 

• Robinson Helicopter Company – R22, R44 

• Enstrom Helicopter Corporation – F-28, F-280 

• Bell Helicopters – Bell 47 

Unmanned Aircraft

When it comes to unmanned aircraft (Drones or UAVs) and aerial animal caretaking, they primarily support the management of livestock herds. Today, drones count livestock that congregates, especially those in herds, such as cows, horses, and sheep. In addition, they're becoming helpful in finding and identifying lost animals in remote and rugged locations. 

Additionally, drones are utilized to counter predators that threaten livestock. The advantages of using such aircraft are evident in many areas of animal husbandry, including pet husbandry. 

Regarding pet husbandry, there is growing interest in using drones for identifying and monitoring stray animals in urban and city environments. Drones provide local governments with better information regarding stray or feral animal populations to help mitigate sanitary problems and help the welfare of animals. Additionally, there are many cases of drones helping reunite lost pets with owners after natural disasters and other catastrophic events. 

Undoubtedly, Aerial Work drone aircraft are expanding in their support of animal husbandry operations. In addition, the drone industry is expanding its platform options to supply ranchers and pet owners with an affordable option to make a positive difference regarding livestock or one of man's best friends. 

Like the manned aircraft sector, the drone sector operates both fixed-wing and rotary-wing unmanned aircraft at a much lower altitude and smaller scale. Depending on the scale of the work, light to heavy-lifting drone platforms are employed. Some of the leading drone platforms used in aerial animal husbandry are: 

• DJI – Mavic Mini, Phantom 4 RTK 

• Parrot – Parrot Bluegrass Fields 

• SenseFly – eBee Plus, eBee SQ 

Closing the Barn Door 

Undoubtedly, the Aerial Work aviation sector is essential in many animal and pet husbandry efforts. Surprisingly, manned and unmanned aircraft of all types are used to help preserve the domestic animals we rely on for life and companionship. Because of the aircraft's unique capabilities, the animal and pet husbandry community is better capable of making a difference. 

Even though humans are just one part of a broad global eco-environment, it has more of an obligation to ensure the balance between all creatures and things, especially when it comes to domestic animals. Therefore, besides ranchers, farmers, veterinarians, and volunteers of all types caring for livestock and pets, the Aerial Work aviation sector will continue to be at the forefront, directly working with these caretakers to make a productive and compassionate difference. 

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