As many civilians in the south braced for impact from Hurricane Harvey and Irma, FAA approved drone pilots were preparing their drones for disaster relief missions.
Unmanned aerial systems are extremely useful during natural disasters for many reasons. An aerial perspective allows first responders to gain critical situational awareness in a fast-paced environment. Drones equipped with thermal imaging can be used in search and rescue missions to quickly locate missing people. Drones can also be used to deliver supplies, like life jackets and water, to areas that ground-based teams can’t reach.
Drones are not only proving their worth during disasters, but in the aftermath as well. According to Wired, the FAA has already issued at least 43 waivers to groups involved recovery efforts, which allow them to fly in otherwise restricted airspace. With these waivers, drone pilots are able to access hard to reach areas and inspect flooding. Drones can also be used to assess powerlines, roads, railroads, and more.
Local government agencies across Texas and Florida are using drones to assess damage caused by the recent storms.
For example, Fort Bend County Emergency Management used their drones to examine a bridge after Hurricane Harvey. Footage from the mission can be seen in the video.
Many insurance agencies, like Farmers’ Insurance and Allstate, are also relying on drones to document damage and quickly process claims. Another bonus of using drones is the precise, real-time data collection. “You can zoom in at your desk to a single shingle and see the characteristics of that particular piece,” Justin Herndon, an Allstate spokesperson, told Wired.
It’s easy to see why drones have become such an integral part of disaster relief. From thermal imaging, to a bird’s eye view, drones are the complete package. With UAS technology rapidly advancing, it will be no surprise when drones become even more useful in future disaster relief efforts.