New digital pet monitor helps keep animals safe on planes

Airlines have standards to meet for the safe transport of animals, but technology may put pet owners more at ease.

Technology company Unisys has developed a new way for pet owners to track and even keep in touch with their furry family members when flying. The new Digi-Pet system, unveiled during the Cargo World Congress of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in Dallas last week, uses sensors and the Internet of Things (IoT) to keep animals safe.

Sensors monitor environmental factors like temperature, oxygen levels, vibration and light. The Digi-Pet system will automatically send alerts to pet owners and airline staff if there are any issues while the animal is traveling in the hold.

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Through a subscription service, Digi-Pet also allows pet owners to keep in touch with their pets through live video streaming, photos and voice exchanges, via an app that works on smartphones and tablets.

“We are emotionally attached to our pets and it can be distressing to be separated from them when traveling by air,” said Venkatesh Pazhyanur, senior industry director of Freight Solutions for Unisys. “Large pets — whether accompanied or not — must travel in the cargo hold. Unisys Digi-Pet uses IoT sensors to provide pet owners with full visibility of their pet’s comfort and the environmental conditions, as well as enabling them to talk to their pet — calming both the pet and owner.”

Despite recent incidents of mishandling, airlines have standards they have to meet in the care and transport of live animals. IATA’s Live Animals Regulations (LAR) are enforced by local governments. Airlines have taken action to improve their handling of pets and live animals. In 2015, Delta Air Lines introduced a pet-tracking system which uses GPS to determine the exact location of pets, and also monitors environmental conditions.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) monitors airlines’ performance and publishes consumer reports which offer all sorts of helpful information, including airlines’ records of mishandling animals. Consumers can review these reports to evaluate an airline’s record before booking a ticket. USDOT also has a dedicated page for pet owners offering helpful travel tips.

IATA also has a pet-corner with helpful information for flyers.

The Animal Welfare Institute also has a good backgrounder on the laws governing the safe transport of animals by air.